Q&A with Artist Jarvis
Just by looking at Jarvis’s art, you get a feeling of hope and inner peace, the kind you can only find in nature. It’s no wonder, since the French artist has spent most of her time in countries boasting vast, green spaces and beautiful landscapes.
Having graduated from the Institute of Superior Studies of Art (IESA Art School) in Paris in 2005, Jarvis then lived in Australia, England and Morocco, allowing each country's unique geological features to shape her art. Her relaxed – but also colourful and bright – brushstrokes invite us to immerse ourselves in the air surrounding us, making use of the planet’s endless possibilities.
Now back in Australia, Jarvis contemplates nature, life and sustainability, while sharing a piece of her artistic ventures and aspirations with us.
Konstantina Pyrnokoki: You come from France but you’ve also lived in Australia, England and Morocco. How has each country inspired your art and which of them do you love the most?
Jarvis: All of these countries have amazing landscapes and beautiful wilderness, especially Morocco and Australia. I guess that’s what inspired my art the most. Contemplating nature and spending time in nature is very important to me, and that’s where I get all my creative ideas from. Australia is definitely my favourite one; it’s the reason why I moved back here.
KP: Many of your artworks seem to be a reflection of your travels. What’s the most fascinating part about creating art ‘on the road’?
J: The most fascinating part is that your work is constantly fueled with renewed energy from the trip – new smells, new images, new people, new culture all the time. Another great thing is that you learn to create with less. I usually travel light and bring the bare minimum with me, so I make do with what I’ve got and what I find on the road to paint. Then I learn to let go of my art, because I cannot always bring it back with me when I come home.
KP: The paintings from your recent exhibition 'The Idea of Wilderness' at the Tanks Art Centre in Australia were made of eco-friendly materials. What do nature and sustainability mean to you?
J: A lot. Nature is basically what sustains our lives so that’s something we should respect. We should be humble enough to recognize how important our natural environment is. And sustainability is certainly a very fashionable word today. Everything has to be sustainable. But that’s still a lot of words for very little done. Industrialized countries are aggressively controlling and exploiting the environment. I try to make art with no ecological impact, using only eco-friendly, biodegradable materials. I’m working on it.
KP: Can you give us more details on how 'The Idea of Wilderness' exhibition came to life and what you were hoping to achieve?
J: I had been in Cairns for a couple of months when I got contacted by Chris Stannard, the curator of the Tanks Arts Centre. He offered to do an exhibition there. This is a very beautiful art gallery, located in what used to be one of the water tanks of the city. It offers an amazing, even daunting, huge space. Nature is everywhere in this area of Queensland (it’s just in front of the Great Barrier Reef) and that’s when I first considered giving an ecological twist to my art. You cannot see all this beauty and then create art made out of toxic paint and plastic just because that’s the only materials you can find in art shops. I had to find a way out of this, out of plastic paint tubes and plastic brushes. Slowly it grew on me, and I started using unfixed raw cotton sheets and water-based paint. It’s still not perfect but it’s a work in progress.
KP: Which artwork or exhibition are you most proud of and why?
J: The exhibition I am the most proud of is definitely the one at the Tanks Arts Centre because it was my first solo exhibition in Australia and it also received important media coverage. It was so awesome being interviewed from radio stations, newspapers and TV and being able to share my art with such an art-loving community.
KP: Initially, you didn’t showcase your work. Why is that and what made you change your mind?
J: I wasn’t ready then. I needed to work more, to try, to fail and to try again, until I could only hear my own voice and no one else’s. I needed time, I needed to be alone and to stay focused on my art. A couple of years later, I felt ready to show my work, to share it. I had my first exhibition at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in California in 2008.
KP: You’ve done both group and solo exhibitions. Which of the two do you enjoy the most and why?
J: I really enjoy both. Group exhibitions are a great way to meet new artists and to make connections. It is also very inspiring, I love hanging out in galleries and museums to see what others do or have done, it gives me new ideas – you’re always stealing from others. And a solo exhibition is great because it’s all yours. It takes your colour, your shape; it’s an extension of your inner world for the outer world to see.
KP: Having opened your studio to the public on several occasions, did you enjoy interacting with the audience and sharing your creative process with them?
J: Yes, I loved it. It’s really important for me to share my artwork with as many people as I can. The ultimate purpose of art is to be seen, to be shared and talked about. I create for others.
KP: Would you be open to the idea of teaching art for a living?
J: Yes, why not. I have already done several workshops with children and it was fun. But teaching art comes second after studio time. Still, I would love to teach people how to make eco-friendly art.
KP: Apart from your paintings, you’ve also experimented with weaving and writing poetry. Which form of expression holds the biggest appeal to you and why?
J: Gosh, I couldn’t choose. Right now I’m knitting a lot and experimenting with textile and natural dyes to create ‘textile’ paintings. I love writing poetry as well. I have always used different media. It’s a way for me to keep my freedom and to avoid getting bored.
KP: In some of your poems, you mention death and how it’s really important that we celebrate life and keep working towards our goals. How has the concept of death affected your work, as well as your choices in life? Is it more of a curse or a driving force to you?
J: The concept of death is a driving force to me. I feel like time is passing, our lives are finite... they will end at some point. It’s like there is not enough time for all the things I would like to achieve. It inspires me to create even more, all the time; especially when life is getting tough and you wonder why you do the things you do. That’s the precise moment when you should turn any negative event into something beautiful, by creating.
KP: Are you working on something new at the moment? Can you share any upcoming projects with us?
J: I am currently working on a new series of paintings, using knitted patches of colour assembled together, stitching on natural material and using natural dyes. It’s very exciting because I’m discovering these new techniques and media. I make plenty of mistakes, I stumble, I learn. It’s a lot of fun and it’s very challenging to try to achieve the effect of an abstract painting with textile and wool. ■
Words by Konstantina Pyrnokoki
Photos provided by Jarvis