Jessie Adams: Mirage

Jessie Adams is a Melbourne-based multi-disciplinary artist specialising in photography and textile design, who articulates sublime landscapes and magical microcosms onto silk.

Jessie’s first solo show, MIRAGE, comprises eight pieces of digitally-printed silk, and will launch next week at Trocadero Art Space in Footscray. Jessie took a break from cracking whips for her other practice and passion, performance art, to talk to us about her work.

What is the artistic vision behind MIRAGE?
MIRAGE is the culmination of a journey I have undertaken over the past year and a half, mainly in Australia, as well as the United States. It centres on three key natural phenomena – light, water and stone.
You shoot largely outdoors, in natural light. How does this affect your creative process?

Like most photographers, getting the perfect light is really important to me. Out in nature, you have to accept a certain lack of control over what happens. That can be a frustrating game of patience, but sometimes all the elements come together at an unexpected time. Either way it’s important to be prepared in practical ways.

Researching a location before a shoot can really help with that. Is it difficult to walk to or do I need a vehicle? Have I packed food and water suitable for the trip? What is the terrain like? Checking the weather on the day, making sure my equipment is packed properly and charged. Trusting your instincts while keeping safe is a good rule of thumb when exploring a location.

How do you decide where to travel to shoot your work?
I go where my friends are. Tasmania, Darwin, Utah, Arizona, Sydney, rural Victoria. All of the locations featured in MIRAGE were shot because I travelled there to see friends. Also locals know where the best spots are, so having those connections is really handy.
Was there a standout moment during your travels when the conditions came together perfectly, or a time when things didn’t turn out as you planned?

Some of my favourite images in MIRAGE almost didn’t get shot because of timing or lack of light. My favourite, ‘Dusk’, was shot at Alstrom Point, Utah. I had driven out with my friend Martin Stamat (an amazing landscape photographer and bloody legend). We were running super late because I kept asking him to stop the car so I could photograph things along the way.

When we got to Alstrom Point the sun had gone below the horizon. Usually this means flat, blue light that can really deaden textures and colours. I hadn’t packed a tripod, and the light was fading fast.

But I pulled out my camera and snapped anyway; I was blown away by the majesty of the rich, pink rock mesas standing the lake. Because some of the mesas were so tall, the light still touched the tips with a warm, golden caress. The result is this gorgeous gradient of colour, a rainbow of rock.

I thought there was no chance I was going to get a good image out of this because of the limitations of light, but the colours are amazing. It’s the biggest piece in MIRAGE, at 200cm x 130cm.


What do you enjoy about working with silk?

I began printing my photos on silk because I wanted to translate these natural phenomena in a more visceral way. I wanted my photographs to move.

Light on water was the first phenomenon I fell in love with, through a bus window out of Hobart at the end of 2013. It remains my favourite wonder to marvel at. The texture of water and its sparkling qualities look so beautiful on silk. It ripples and glistens like the real thing – but you can grasp it and keep it.

Can you tell us a bit more about your background, and also your other modes of artistic expression?

I studied Photomedia at the ANU School of Art from 2008–2012. During my time there, my work was largely concerned with the representation of women in art and my own identity.

Then, while on exchange in Vancouver at the Emily Carr School of Art and Design in 2010, I was in an accident that became crucial to my focus on representation, and the relationship between the personal and the political. I lost a chunk of my leg at a rock concert that left me with pretty horrific scarring, and I had to go through a few surgeries and psychological rehabilitation.

Photography became a really important means of therapy for me. By photographing my scars, I began to heal the schism between my mind and my body that had happened as a result of PTSD.

My body remains a large part of my interdisciplinary practice. I’ve been a life model for over four years now, and often photograph my nude body in the landscapes I travel to.

And now performance art and sexuality is a strong aspect of my creative practice. I perform in Melbourne in this crazy, kink act with my collaborator Luke Rogers. I learned how to crack whips in the Northern Territory as a kid, and now I bring those skills to kink parties.

Another aspect of my practice is founded in my love for fashion and personal style as a powerful mode of communication, feminist politics and resistance. My development as textile designer definitely came from my love for clothes. I have made a dress from my fabrics before, and would love to make more pieces.

Is there a creative person or work that you have recently discovered or are currently particularly interested in?

There is one work I saw at art school that keeps coming back to me, a video piece called “Comingled Containers” (1996) by experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. It’s been a major influence on my approach to natural phenomena. His treatment of light on water is one of the most beautiful art works I have ever seen to this day. Go check it out, it’s absolutely stunning.

You have a second solo exhibition coming up as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival in September. Tell us a bit about that.

It’s called TERRAFORM: Textiles and Terrain, and is part of The Dog Theatre’s WICK FRINGE program at WICK Studios in Brunswick.

It’s an immersive installation featuring a 12-metre suspended length of chiffon silk, accompanied by a selection of prints available for purchase. It’s a homage to my hometown of Darwin – all of the works in the show were shot in Darwin or the Central Desert of the Northern Territory.

I’m teaming up with the fantastic environmental organisation Friends of the Earth for the show. A selection of art pieces in the installation will be available for purchase by silent auction throughout the duration of the exhibition, with a percentage of proceeds being donated to Friends of the Earth. The show is a free event and runs from Friday September 16 until Friday September 30, so come along!

In the spirit of Red Magpie, what’s your favourite shiny thing?
I LOVE SILK. I love the luminosity of silk so much, it’s like a drug to me. I am so smitten with it as a medium.

MIRAGE runs from 1027 August at Gallery 1, Trocadero Art Space, Footscray. The opening night is on Wednesday 10 August. Follow Jessie via her website, Instagram and Facebook page.


Photography by Jessie Adams, Elly Freer and Martin Stamat