Surrounded by paint cans, Adelaide/Tarntanya mural artist Jasmine Crisp hovers on a crane above the streets of Mantova. The small lake-encircled Italian city, also known as Mantua, is located about halfway between Venice and Milan, and is steeped in art history.

Crisp’s maximalist and playful large-scale portraits already adorn walls in several Australian cities. But it was one of her “biggest ever life dreams” to paint an original international mural — and she had only one week to complete it.

Artist Jasmine Crisp’s large-scale portrait is inspired by the role of women in history and her own life.   (Supplied: Jasmine Crisp)

“I had a shopping trolley full of paint that I would transport to and from the site every day… For me, this was the tightest timeline I’ve had for a wall of this scale,” Crisp says.

Artist Jasmine Crisp has already created permanent large scale murals for festivals in Adelaide, Brisbane and Geelong.(Photo: Jenn Garo )

For more than 12 hours a day, she worked to transform the wall-sized canvas into an image stretching more than three storeys high and 10 metres wide.

While some artists use aerosols or spray guns to create large-scale paintings, Crisp paints by hand, working meticulously, brushstroke by brushstroke.

She is one of four artists from around the world who has been invited to participate in the public art festival Without Frontiers — alongside fellow Adelaide artist Seb Humphreys and muralists from Spain and Argentina.

The event brings art from the heart of Mantua, the 2016 “Italian Capital of Culture”, to a lower socio-economic area on the outskirts of the city called Lunetta. With the festival in its ninth year, Lunetta’s streets are becoming increasingly kaleidoscopic.

Making the personal public

The story Crisp chose to share with the Lunetta community is one of the most personal she’s ever produced.

Titled “She brought them with her (self portrait far from home)”, the work is an enormous portrait of Crisp, which explores her choice as a woman to pursue a career as an artist and not marry or have children.

Crisp had only a week to complete the large-scale mural. (Supplied: Jasmine Crisp)

The concept emerged during her recent residency in Mexico, where Crisp was researching the historic relationship between women and domesticity and started contemplating her own contemporary path in the lead up to her 30th birthday.

“This painting is directly informed by readings based on the role of women in the home throughout history, and shifts toward breaking this mould as new generations live alone, travel [and] expand their careers — no longer restricted to the once-sole purposes of motherhood and wifely duties,” she explains.

Jasmine Crisp is known for her use of symbols in her artwork.   (Supplied: Jasmine Crisp)

“[It depicts] an image of my mum floating over my chest and many other symbols from historic portraiture and art, [with] the aim of making it about how the women before me have allowed me to have a life of complete independence.

“Overall, this is a gratuitous yet somewhat existential reflection on aging, family lineage, life purpose, privilege, belonging and the journey of home and self.”

Through her murals, Crisp aims to take stories that are often kept behind closed doors — the personal, private and intimate — and turn them into “large and very public totems”.

“It’s my goal with murals [to make] visible topics that aren’t usually shared with strangers on the street.”

Crisps describes her work as “visual tales”. Her narrative-rich images bring together traditional and contemporary approaches to portraiture.   (Photo: Jenn Garo )

As she shared her story in Mantua through paint, Crisp experienced a reaction from the community she hadn’t had before in Australia.

“Although a lot of the time I couldn’t converse with locals without a translator, I found that people would watch for hours … and got really invested in the progress of the piece, asking questions about the subject matter and story in a way that felt really rewarding and rich,” she explains.

“In Australia, murals can be seen more as advertising or decoration than ‘fine art’, which is what I’m interested in producing.

“This is something that differs from the perspective in Italy, where fine art has been displayed on walls and roof interiors for centuries.”

Posted , updated