WILD AT ART
November 1, 2018
Words: Jennifer Lane/
Photos: Tom Powell
Hannah jensen is an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist, best known for her carving. She’s also a surfing, paddle-boarding yogini with a strong social conscience. Hannah has been a volunteer art teacher at Auckland’s Starship Hospital since 2010, and she continues to donate her works to multiple charity auctions. We spoke to her about how she became an artist, the inspiration behind her latest exhibition, Wild, and the things that bring her joy.
Yes, I have the absolute honor of making beautiful artwork as a career. I got there by just doing it, by literally following my dreams. I started out early as a creative and kept on going until I went to school. Art then became a thing I could take to university, do there, and carry on doing.
Getting there was about perseverance – and believing in myself. Being able to believe in yourself is so important. But the best thing you can do is just show up – and continue to show up.What motivates you?
I imagine my works in my head. These are literally the images I dream up; I can imagine what I’m going to do. I just follow these dreams and follow the internal drive to want to create them. The nice thing about making money from my art is that it enables me to continue to do it – and with ease.
These days I create art full-time, so I’m here early in the morning at 6am with my first layer of paint and I’ll often leave at 10 o’clock at night. But it’s such a passion of mine – I get to make these beautiful pieces – and it brings joy to other people so it brings joy to me to create them. It takes me on such a journey. And that journey continues when they’re sold and they go and live with someone else.
“We can do so much. It’s the little things that add up. It’s those takeaway cups and it’s the less plastic and all those things we can give back in our own little way. So I wanted to encourage the viewer to do that and to live a more sustainable life.”
A sacrifice for me was probably when I was at university – I think I went to the pub once! But it wasn’t much of a sacrifice because at the end of my university years, not only did I come out with an amazing degree, I came out with money in the bank because I’d worked so hard. Then I got to travel the world – and I went to many different pubs on my way round!
I think sacrifice comes in different forms. And I believe if you change your mindset and turn it into a positive, there’s always a positive outcome. So, yes, I’m sure there have been many sacrifices. I’ve worked very very long hours, but I now make sure I make the most of my time outside of my studio.When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I realized I wanted to be an artist from a very young age. From the age of three or four I could say the word “artist”. And I knew and understood the word because my mum was a potter and I watched her create and I wanted to do that as a living. It wasn’t until high school that I really believed I could. I just kept that belief up and continued to do it.
“There’s so much amazingness in nature, but for me it means joy. It just gives so much to me.”
“I want to share the animals’ stories and try in some way to create a connection between them and the viewer.”
Wild actually stemmed from an idea from about five years ago. I just absolutely adore animals and my Dad owned a game farm in Africa. The time I spent with the animals was hugely inspirational. I want to share the animals’ stories and try in some way to create a connection between them and the viewer. I want to encourage the viewer to protect the animals, to save them, because I feel like we’re losing time.What did you hope the viewer would take away from your artwork?
I really hoped the viewer would experience some kind of engagement with animals. I also wanted to encourage the viewer to actually think more outside the square – to not just ‘care’ but go beyond that, and make a difference in every day life. Sometimes when you’re removed, you think, What can I do from here, from little old New Zealand, to protect the world? But we can do so much. And it’s the little things that add up. It’s those takeaway cups and it’s the less plastic and all those things we can give back in our own little way. So I wanted to encourage the viewer to do that and to live a more sustainable life.
My decision to volunteer at Starship was, again, inspired by my time in Africa. Next door to Dad’s farm was an AIDS orphanage and I’d spend time with the children there and really loved being with them, so I wanted to take that back into my own community.
In New Zealand, what I can do is teach kids art and, every week, it takes me back to reality. That time is so special to me, but also special for the kids. We’ve got a carving we work on over time, but every week it’s something different. Some kids come back, but every week it’s a different group – from 5-to-17-year olds, of all different abilities. We have a really great relationship – we create a lot of fun and make a lot of mess. It’s awesome!Is there one thing you absolutely live by?
There is one thing I absolutely live by and that’s being myself. I think it’s really important to be who you are – to be authentic. We live in such a privileged kind of society that you have so many things around you. When you take away the noise, there’s the question of what it is that you really want to do. And how can you give back? I don’t give back because I have to. I give back because I really want to. Making the most of life and being authentic are things I live by, but being of service is really important to me too.
I seek pause when I’m in nature. In New Zealand there’s so much of it and it’s right at our fingertips so it’s my number one thing to do during my time off. Daily, I try to seek pause in yoga. I might be surrounded by people but I seek that pause internally. Even if you’re in chaos, it’s really important to be able to find that pause within.
But to get completely rejuvenated, I’m either on the ocean, out surfing or swimming, or being up a mountain or going through valleys, with very few people around and feeling so completely lost in nature. I find that really rejuvenating.And lastly, what does nature mean to you?
To me, nature means joy. I know there’s a lot of craziness in nature when it comes to weather and things that happen, but when I think of nature, I think of joy because even after a fire you get new seeds. There’s so much amazingness in nature, but for me it means joy. It just gives so much to me.