Artist Interview – Jasmine Walker

Jasmine’s work deals with themes of change, growth and existential threat. We caught up with Jasmine to discuss her upcoming exhibition ‘Following My Mind‘ – opening at CAS on Friday 15th November.

Can you tell me a bit about your artistic background and practice?
I did art in primary school and all throughout high school up until year 11 and 12 and it was a really big part of my life. I graduated high school and had all of these art supplies and didn’t think I wanted to be an artist full-time, but I really enjoyed art, so when I moved out of home I bought myself a small set of watercolours and just had a book and one of those watercolour brush pens (my favourite thing in the world!) It’s great because whenever I go travelling or go away I can just take this book and this little watercolour set and go anywhere and everywhere and paint. I rarely sit down at my desk at home and paint. I’m often at the beach or in the park or on holiday or back home with my parents. Art is a thing that I do in my down time, which is often not at home. 

For the past 5 or 6 years that I have been out of school I’ve just been painting watercolours in my spare time as something to do to relax and my process my thoughts. A lot of my work has really colourful patterns and intricate designs that I’m just drawing for fun and to process things but also a lot of them have words which relate to things I’ve been thinking about at that time.

What kind of process do you go through when making an artwork?
I definitely go back to my artwork a couple of times and I always have to persist because I often start a work and then hate it for a while and leave it alone, and then come back to it. A lot of the time I’ll do the fun colouring-in design bit and then I’ll leave it and come back to it and put words on it and do a lot of outlining at the end. Often I leave a work and go back to it several times to do more outlines. I’m a big fan of outlines! I just like how it looks and I like the forms to have some kind of shape. Often my work has so much colour in it, that unless I outline it, it doesn’t really look like anything.

Does your upcoming exhibition have a particular theme?
It’s kind of just all of the works that I’ve liked over the past 6 years. Also, I’m an environmental engineer part-time as well as an environment engineering student. For the past couple of years I’ve been involved in climate activism and the environmental movement, so some of my work deals a little bit with climate change, but not a lot of it is super explicit. A lot of my work is just reflections on how I feel about climate change. So some of the work relates to climate change in ways that I can see or explain, but not always. Climate change is the one theme that I can see in a lot of my work, but I totally could understand how an outsider might think it’s just a bunch of colourful stuff with some words. I’m working with Lara, my curator, to help create a more consistent theme. She has been really helpful. 

What kind of activism do you do?
I’ve done a whole bunch of stuff over the past few years. Fossil Free and do a lot of divestment work, which is essentially asking big organisations (e.g. banks) to take their money out of the fossil fuel industry. I’ve had a lot of experience with those organisations over the past few years. I also worked with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition for a short amount of time. It’s something I really enjoy and something I want to do more of after I graduate rather than engineering. I’ve been involved with lots of different groups. I’ve done lots of divestment campaigning and political lobbying – which is where I’d like to do more work in the future.

Have those experiences informed your artwork?
I would say so, but in a very abstract way. It’s not super obvious.

What feelings do you have about your first time exhibiting?
Nerves! A little bit worried nobody is going to come. Also definitely quite a lot of imposter syndrome. I feel like – Am I supposed to be doing this? Am I really going to do this? Is this something I should be doing? Is there someone whose better at this? Or needs this more that should be doing this? – But also a lot of pride because exhibiting my work is something I want to be able to say I’ve done – it’s very cool. I feel very weird about selling my artwork too because it’s not something I’ve done before. I’m trying to put all those negative feelings aside though.

Do you have any thoughts on the intersection between art and climate change?
Yeah definitely. I think its super powerful. Every time I tell people that I study environmental engineering they’re like ‘wow that’s great you’re going to save the world!’ But I’m not – engineering is not what’s going to fix the problem. The problem at the moment doesn’t need technical solutions, it needs policy and people solutions and that can come from culture and art. One of my artworks has the 1.5 number in it, which refers to 1.5 degrees. I was talking to my curator about it and not to throw her under the bus or anything, but she didn’t know what it was and I explained it. It was nice to have art as a facilitator for those kinds of conversations, which I think that people aren’t having enough.

What are you hoping your audience will gain from your work?
Hopefully just starting conversations about climate change. I also hope that it makes people happy! 

That’s interesting – So much climate change communication is very grim.
Yeah, and that’s not what I want. I want my art to be a starting point for conversations about climate change but then want people to feel safe and warm and comforted and enjoy these beautiful pieces and feel that humanity is something we can celebrate. I want people to talk about climate change but not be like, ‘wow we messed up it’s so bad and we’re all going to die’ – that’s not the message I want at all. 

Climate change is a struggle and a challenge, but I think it is a challenge for humanity to rise to and it’s an opportunity to create even better structures for people and create a world that’s what we want it to be. Climate change really puts that time pressure on creating this world. There’s no point getting all sad and pessimistic, it doesn’t help. 

Have you had that kind of response to your work before?
Not to my art, but I’ve definitely had it with people in conversation, which is a lot of what I do. When I created a lot of my work I was in a head space of ‘we’re all doomed there’s nothing we can do why are we even trying’ – art helps me get out of that mindset and think ‘what can we do that’s productive and what can we do that’s constructive to talk about positive solutions’. I want people to hear positive messages so they feel more inclined to engage in this conversation. I want people to know climate change is a problem but then think about what tangible things they can do and need to do despite their limited time or resources.

What’s coming up for you as far as any future projects? Artistic or otherwise?
I will just keep creating art. I don’t know if I would ever do another exhibit, but depending on how this goes and how I feel about it maybe I would. I definitely want to keep investigating ways to keep making art. A year ago I thought that I wanted to turn my art into something I could sell. Someone suggested talking to bands about having my art on their merchandise or album covers, but I’m not sure if I want to do that. I like art as a hobby but I’m open to considering projects.

Aside from that, my main project is working out how to change the political system in Australia so we can fix climate change. That’s the big one!

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