Benja Harney

Benja Harney is a Sydney-based paper engineer. Using his garden for inspiration Benja used paper he had in his house to create colour paper collages in the journal as a visual dialogue with nature. Working against the lockdown doldrums, Benja returned to the creative process through reflecting his local environment. 

We asked Benja three questions about his experience of isolation, completing this journal and his hope for the future. These are his responses:

Describe the experience of the period of isolation for you. 

Whilst at times it has been very challenging, I have also taken solace in the change in pace and the reorganising of life’s usual patterns. My garden became a refuge over the lockdown, drawing me outside to break the boredom of being indoors. As contact with people was difficult during this period, I started to reflect on the natural world that surrounded me, and the idea of ‘place’ became a comforting thought that I drew from in the absence of human input. 

What does your book represent and how did you approach the challenge?

The main challenge for me was finding my creativity as the lockdown brought on a period of low drive. The book was really a bit of a lifeline out of the doldrums and back into my creativity. I decided to experiment with a new technique (for me) of paper collage to create imagery reflecting my local environment - trees, rocks, animals. The sole rule I put on the collage imagery was that I could only use paper that was already in my house. Through the creation of the book I have come to know my local landscape in more intimate terms, and it feels even more like home to me now.

What do you hope will change in Australia as a result of the pandemic?

I hope that people will reflect on the slowing down of productivity and allow themselves more contentment from simply ‘being’ rather than feeling the modern pressure to always be ‘doing'.

Benja Harney is a paper engineer. Working both in Australia and internationally, he is renowned as a pioneer in his field. As a professional creative, artist and educator, over the last 12 years Harney has led his Sydney-based studio, Paperform, to develop a body of work that pushes the possibilities of the paper medium. Pop-up books, paper sculpture, installation, illustration, packaging, fine art, fashion, animation, set design – Harney makes anything and everything possible within this endlessly inventive material.

View Benja Harney's journal here:

Image: Benja Harney, Design/Isolate Journal (detail), 2020.