Jasmine Smail has spent her final year at Bath Spa University creating sculpture and film fashioned from unreliable childhood memories.
Working with her own childhood memories as subject matter, Jasmine Smail manages to tread the fine line between celebrating the past and slipping into nostalgic indulgence. “I try not to think too much about selfindulgence,” she says. “Rather, I embrace it. I make work more for me than anyone else, and I have fun making it.”
By fashioning the oversized equipment and winner’s medal for Sports Day (2021) from materials such as papier-mache, tin foil, and salt dough, Smail has made the rendering of realistic-looking sculptures an impossibility. “These basic materials tend to be quite difficult to work with, especially if you want to be precise in your making – which I like, because things never turn out the way you imagined.” The result is a rough-hewn aesthetic – “wobbly, imperfect objects” as Smail has it – that is well suited to work underpinned by such “infamously unreliable” memories.
Having found her initial approach to this topic – recreating found objects – “too limiting”, Smail moved on to making objects as she imagined them. These exaggerated versions of items from everyday life reflected an amplified version of herself, where “everything was pink”, which in turn took her back to her early years, where everything really was pink. And so the subject of her own childhood entered her practice.
At the mid-point of Smail’s second year of a Fine Art BA at Bath Spa University, the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Successive lockdowns resulted in the loss of her studio space and workshop facilities for a total of six months. She spent the first lockdown in Bath and carried on making work at home. But when the winter lockdown was announced Smail found herself back at the family home with no art materials and only the suitcase of clothes she had taken with her for the Christmas break.
Smail’s new living situation went on to directly influence the direction her work would take in the final months of her degree. A makeshift studio in her parents’ conservatory meant making smaller sculptures, while being surrounded by objects and images from her childhood accelerated her progression into an area she was already interested in.
The final piece in the jigsaw also emerged while experimenting back at her parental home, where she started making short films as a way of bringing her objects to life. “More recently I’ve become interested in how an object is activated, rather than the objects themselves,” she explains. “The act of holding it or running with it, or both.” These films are shot with an old camcorder, which has the effect of reinforcing the sense of knowing naivety imbued within these works at every stage of the process.
Smail says that she knows when she is doing the right thing because she doesn’t have to try too hard to make it work. As for how her work is received, she says: “I feel attached to everything I make, as if it were a childhood toy that I find difficult to let go of. What other people make of my work is secondary.” This doesn’t entirely ring true and when pushed on the subject, Smail smiles and acknowledges the satisfaction she feels when people connect with her work and are taken back to their own memories of similar experiences. By sharing such relatable stories and being open about her own experiences, Smail elevates her practice above navelgazing, providing a space for the viewer to see themself in the work.
Degree Show: Bath Spa University Degree Show opens to the public public 21-28 June 2021. www.bathspa.ac.uk/news-and-events/
Interview and feature by Trevor H. Smith
1. Jasmine Smail, Egg and Spoon, papier mache and tin foil, 2021.
2. Jasmine Smail, Sports day (film still), 2021.
3. Jasmine Smail, Hurdles, salt dough and acrylic paint, 2021.
4. Jasmine Smail, SPLAT, ceramic, poster paint and PVA, 2021.