One to Watch

Jasmine Mills Uncovers the Magic Between People and Place

The connection between people and place is fundamental yet easily taken for granted. With an observant eye and a deep appreciation for local history, artist Jasmine Mills mines this relationship, and its strange and surreal potential, through fantastical landscapes paintings.

Drawing on regional folklore, religious history, and Neolithic artifacts, Jasmine’s paintings are rooted in the artist’s earnest study of her surroundings, specifically her native Norfolk and her adopted home of Cornwall, England. This humble approach to space and place is displayed in the meditative quality that marks her human figures—painted in the same fluid, curvilinear shapes as the nature that surrounds them, these ephemeral characters evoke a sense of oneness with their given landscape. Rendered in rich, expressionist color palettes, Jasmine’s landscapes alternate between subdued washes of paint and electrified passages of saturated color—a fusion that evokes the moments of quiet contemplation and heightened connection to be found in nature. In uncovering the magic between people and place, Jasmine spurs the viewers to see our own surroundings in a new light.

Jasmine graduated from Falmouth University in 2017. Since then, she has exhibited frequently and has continued honing her skills through Turps Banana—an artist-led publication and mentorship program focused on painting. Jasmine currently works out of her studio in Krowji, Cornwall’s central hub for creative businesses.

Tell us about who you are and what you do. What’s your background?

My name is Jasmine Mills, and I’m a painter that also uses print, drawing, and mixed-media. I grew up in Norfolk and then moved to Cornwall to study Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art. Since the moment I moved down to Cornwall, the landscape and people have had a huge impact on my life and practice. Since graduating in 2017, I’ve been working in a studio in Krowji, became a Newlyn Society artist, and furthered my studies through Turps Banana Correspondence Course.

What does your work aim to say? What are the major themes you pursue in your work? 

My work is about the connection between figure, viewer, and place. I’m interested in past human stories and how they become a part of the landscape. Often, my practice combines an emotional or spiritual perspective with a sense of narrative. I take a huge amount of my inspiration from the Cornish landscape, which is completely vast in nature. You can find peaks made by the China clay industry, land shaped by copper mines, and Neolithic standing stones. With that comes a huge amount of history that feeds my work. An example of this is the painting Healing Trees, which is based on a Holy well that has a tree covered in “Cloutie spells.” This can be found near Carn Euny Ancient Village. These “clouties,” or cloths, are added to the tree to bring the person health and peace.

My home in Norfolk also inspires my paintings, which have unique identities. Close to my village where I grew up is woodland, where I spent a lot of my childhood exploring. An example is Crystal Ball, which depicts a figure hiding amongst tall trees. Many of these paintings have a fantastical, playful quality, which comes from my memories.

Can you walk us through your process for creating a work from beginning to end?

My paintings happen from coming across interesting places and reflecting on memories. I have also always loved social history, so the next step is a bit of research, finding out how I want to depict the place and if there will be figures. Then, when I start a painting, it is about working with these elements to create a feeling of a place.

Painting is like an adventure to me; there is a very exciting element of risk; giving and taking away from the canvas surface leads to painterly discoveries. This is really important in creating a feeling, so I’m constantly considering texture, color intensity and opacity, and brush marks, which build to create atmosphere.

Who are your biggest influences and why?

All of my surroundings influence me, especially friends and family. I think as an artist, I’m constantly being influenced, even unconsciously. Taking everything in and sifting through to find little bits of gold that might be used. This is something I have had to slow down with—I often find myself with too many ideas and not enough time to get them onto canvas. I’m trying to stay with paintings for longer and see if anything else might come from the same image. I find this process very exciting, so I have to ensure I’m not moving on too quickly.

How does your work comment on current social and political issues?

I feel that more than ever, place and origin are incredibly important to people. Dare I say it, but the pandemic has made people question who they are, where they live, and if they’re being authentic to themselves. We are also being faced with conflict, a cost of living crisis, and a housing crisis that has led to many people being displaced from their homes. I would be lying if I said that a combination of these has not informed my work recently. I’m finding that although my paintings start with these historical stories, they seem to transcend through time and feel more relevant to current times. My recent paintings have stronger, more present figures which feel more timely and political. An example of this is Night Time Antics. This very playful painting depicts a tight-knit group of people interacting; on closer inspection, they are shoeless and appear to be comforting each other.

How do you hope viewers respond to your works? What do you want them to feel?

I tend to think of my paintings as portals, and for this reason, I hope viewers will be transcended. Whether the imagery takes them to a memory, a person, or somewhere completely new. I hope they find some form of escapism. 

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?

If I wasn’t an artist, I’d love to be a textile designer—I love color and pattern. I love going into textile shops and spending hours looking at fabric. 

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

Always music! Music gives me tremendous energy and is a very potent tool for me while painting. It gives me concentration and gets me in the zone. Before I know it, half the day has passed.

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