“If you can take a material that perhaps is intended for one thing and then use it in another way, that to me is what innovation is, it’s about using materials in a different way.”
Jasmine Pradissitto is a highly talented artist who combines her love of art with her knowledge of science. Her art is beautiful and innovative but before she became an artist, she studied science. She received her Ph.D. in the quantum behavior of silicone in 1996 but throughout her studies, she continued to paint “I went off to do my Ph.D. but during that time I was still painting, and that kind of, supplemented my income. I used to go to a lot of life classes so I really classically trained”.
Through these life classes, Jasmine met a tutor who encouraged her to study art. “So literally I was, during the day, doing all this research but in the evening I was going to Gold Smiths College and I was doing a foundation in art. I realize now a lot of people are mixing these things up but they weren’t doing this 20 and 30 years ago, at the time it was like I had to do it in secret”.
She explains “When I went back to art college I was painting all these traditional paintings. After two years of doing that I had a brilliant tutor who came in and said ‘Jasmine, you’ve got a Ph.D. in physics, why are you painting this stuff? You have this whole wealth of knowledge in your head’. And I remember saying ‘Am I allowed to do that’? Because it had never occurred to me. When I went into art college, that part of my brain stopped and I inhabited something else. So to me, innovation happens when you take everything that you have and you allow it to happen in your subconscious”. She continues, “To me, innovation comes from creative thinking and connection making and the creative thinking is from playing and taking risk”.
After finishing up her Ph. D. Jasmine knew she wanted to be an artist but she also needed to make a living as well. She began working with children through a consulting business that made science and math easier to understand. “We were doing outreach in schools, we were training teachers and it was all about trying to make science and math less scary”.
Throughout all of this Jasmin continued to create art. “So this is all as I was doing the art, they are all interlinked, I couldn’t make the art that I do now without doing the teaching, public speaking, and science. It’s a huge mish-mash of things and that’s where the work comes from. As time has gone on it becomes less about how to think creatively and innovatively but more about how we use that to improve the world”.
Jasmine’s creativity and innovation caught our attention through her pollution absorbing sculptures. Not only are they stunning, but they also provide our communities with the priceless ability to absorb pollutants. We asked about these sculptures and how they came to be. “Someone very close to me suffers from asthma. It was one night that we were at [the] emergency [room] because he couldn’t breathe. I had never experienced that before, and that was a really long night. I remember thinking that the act of breathing in and out, we take it for granted.”
This led Jasmine to study pollution and the impact that it has on our population. She began speaking to colleagues within the scientific community and learned about a material that was naturally occurring and was being used as a fire retardant. This material, a naturally occurring geopolymer, was uncovered 40 years ago but was only recently rediscovered and studied.
“They must have been working with this material for about 12 years now, and I remember looking at it and it looked a bit like plaster dust and I wondered if anyone has made any art out of that”. As time went on and studies continued, it was discovered that this material, called NoxTek, absorbs 15% by weight of Nitrogen Dioxide (Nox). Jasmine states “Now what that means is that if you have a sculpture in your medium-sized room that is about 3 kgs it will actually clean the air in your room for about 60 years.”
Jasmine began experimenting with this material which took her two and a half years of research and development in order to make it a useable material for art. “It’s been challenging but it does have a beauty to it…if you can take a material that perhaps is intended for one thing and then use it in another way, that to me is what innovation is, it’s about using materials in a different way.”
Jasmin’s most recent collection is called ‘The Four Horsemen’. She states “I wanted to make a series of four, called the Four Horsemen but they are all to do with the air”.
The first sculpture, called ‘Pestilence’, is a gas mask with a rubber hose. ‘Death’, which is the second sculpture in this series, has a design similar to the masks worn during the black plague. She states “My family lives about an hour outside of Venice, so I have grown up looking at the plague masks”. The third sculpture in this series is am image of two hands, made from the hands of a person very dear to her, holding an inhaler which is called ‘Famine’. The last sculpture is called ‘War’. She states “It’s like an oil field where the derricks have been replaced by asthma puffers. It’s a little bit darker but I love it because its something that I needed to make”.
Jasmin’s other works include sculptures that use light to enhance their beauty. We asked about the recurrent use of butterflies throughout her work and why she is drawn to them. “If you think of a butterfly, people often dismiss them as purely decorative but it’s probably the closest thing to an alien that we have. Plus, if you think of your waterproof phone, that’s probably been inspired by a butterfly.” She continues “For me, it represents what we were, what we could become. I think it’s a real icon for society in terms of biomimicry.”
Jasmine has created her sculptures using such groundbreaking materials that we were curious about what she was most proud of in her work. From the outside looking in the answer seems obvious. Her response is “First of all when I overcome something really technical. Basically, when I do something that’s new and I kind of go ‘I have no idea how to do this’ which is very often, and then we suss it. Man, that is a good feeling, that’s the scientist in me.” She continues “I don’t think I really measure myself by other people’s perceptions, I measure myself by my own perception of what I’m doing, so when I can overcome one of my own challenges, yeah, that’s kind of cool. That’s a difficult one.”
Our time spent with Jasmine was incredible and we enjoyed learning about her journey and what has shaped the artist she is today. Be sure to follow her Instagram to see more sculptures and paintings. For more information about her exhibits and work visit Jasmin’s website.