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Trash to Treasure – The Art of Recycling

KIM WYATT SITS DOWN WITH SELF-TAUGHT ARTIST, SWAPNA NAMBOODIRI FOR AN INSIDE
SCOOP ON HER LOVE FOR ART AND RECYCLING.


 

Self-taught artist, Swapna Namboodiri, loves collecting trash. The former engineer transforms discarded plastic into stunning pieces of sculptural collages and artworks. Since 2016, Swapna’s artworks have travelled to more than fifty collectors around the globe. Based in Qatar, the artist is passionate about sharing her message of recycling to the world.

1. How did you change career from engineer to full-time artist?

After five years of corporate life in Bangalore, India, I decided to take a break after I had my first child. Back then, painting was only a hobby. In 2012 I exhibited at my first flea market and sold recycled plastic jewelry, home décor products and paintings. That was the beginning of my recycling journey!

2. Do you see any parallels between engineering and art?

I strongly believe my engineering background and experience in the corporate field has contributed to the person I am today. Personally, I can’t say there are any parallels but there is definitely scope for a collaboration between the two.

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3. Why did you become an artist?

I became an artist to pursue my passion and dream. My transformation from engineer to artist was not easy. In fact, for a while I was skeptical about calling myself an ‘artist’ because of my lack of formal education.

4. Why do you use trash for your art?

Initially I started using trash as an added texture for my art. Then I researched the harmful effects of plastic pollution on our planet and the impact on ocean life. I was inspired to use plastics as much as possible in my artworks and I hope this will inspire others to recycle and reduce the use of plastic.

5. What types of trash do you like to use?

I use all kinds of plastic bottles and bags! Each piece of artwork is individually hand cut and painted ready to be assembled onto canvas or joined using wire and/or mesh. Each piece of artwork uses between one to ten plastic bottles depending on the size of the artwork. I started using trash from my home and now my friends save plastic materials for me.

6. Describe your method and style of art

I love to call myself a recycling plastic sculptor because I am extremely passionate about helping to make our planet greener for future generations. I try to bring a unique style to each piece of artwork and incorporate different painting techniques such as pourable fluid oils and acrylics. I love working on a range of subjects from nature and outer space to people and culture. If I had to choose one favourite subject matter it would be nature! I try to delve deeply into the soul of the work I am creating and use bright, bold colours to give a vibrant aura to all my artwork.

7. You’re active in the local art community. How did you become involved?

My family and I relocated to Qatar in 2014 and I fell in love with art scene. I was lucky enough to be part of a community of artists and crafters named QatART. I soon started exhibiting and selling my artworks to the local and expat audience. In late 2015 I joined a couple of online galleries where I connected with an art loving crowd from around the world! For a self-taught artist, it was a life changing experience and I felt motivated to explore and polish my skills.

8. Why is it important to recycle?

I like to quote the following: “Each piece of plastic once created is still lying on the earth’s surface.” If plastic production and usage remain the same our oceans will be filled with more plastic than fish by the year 2050. It’s time we take action. I want to inspire others to think twice before throwing away plastics.

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9. Is there a recycling scene in Qatar?

There seems to be an increasing number of schools taking part in ‘green’ initiatives and I hope that environmental awareness will spread amongst our younger generations. I’m so glad the local and expat communities are taking more responsibility for the environment.

10. Where do you exhibit your artworks?

Recently I was selected to exhibit my sculptural artworks at the Tokyo International Art Festival in Tokyo. It was my debut at an international art fair. For future projects I’m planning to exhibit my artworks here in Qatar by the end of the year.

11. What do you hope for your future?

I don’t like to plan ahead! I’d rather live and enjoy the moment. When I started this journey seven years ago, I had no clue how life would turn out. I can’t believe I recently had the opportunity to exhibit my artwork in Tokyo at the Tokyo International Art Festival! I am passionate about my work and enjoy it so much. I’m very positive about my art career and can’t wait to explore, learn and create every single day!