For artist and designer Jasmine Craciun, 2020 has been a very busy year.
The 23-year-old has been painting murals, making art and graphic design and even knitting the occasional jumper. She completed her degree in visual communication design in 2018 from the University of Newcastle and jumped into work. She feels lucky to have discovered her passion early on in life, and she loves incorporating her cultural background into her creative endeavors.
Craciun takes on gigs ranging from commercial to purely artistic. She recently collaborated with local Yamatji Wajarri artist Nicole Monks on an Indigenous exhibition currently display in The Lock Up, and she's working on another project with the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Sydney and the Museum of Future. She works with local businesses, groups and collectives including The Roost Creative, City of Newcastle and Hunter Water.
On the October long weekend she was also painting a mural near the corner of King and Brown streets for The Big Picture Fest street art celebration in Newcastle.
She recently completed a mural at the Wilcannia Central School in north-western NSW, a place near and dear to her heart.
"Mum grew up in Wilcannia on the river bank in the beginning of her life in a demountable hut. Then my nan and my pop lived in an old bus that was converted into an old house," Craciun says. "She was there until she was six or seven. Then her nan and pop separated, and she went to Sydney."
Craciun and her mother are proud Barkindji, Malyangapa women and Craciun embraces her ties to this land.
"Our traditional group is Barkindji; the river is called Baaka in Barkindji language. Literally our name means people of the Darling River. At the worst with the river, water was getting shipped in and the tap water was undrinkable. Currently with the rain, people are able to use the tap water but it's a bit iffy. The water isn't stagnant like it was, but that has been an ongoing issue my whole life," Craciun says.
The river is drying up in part due to the cotton farming in an arid region. For years her family has been marching and fighting for the river. It's the life source for everyone who lives there, and while things are better at the moment, the people of the region have felt neglected by government officials.
You can find themes of water and her connection to it in a some of her artworks, including an installation she did in 2019 at Lake Macquarie Art Gallery titled Empty Water Vessels.
But she also has strong ties to Newcastle and its surrounds. Her father's side of the family is Romanian and Austrian. Her dad grew up in Newcastle, and Craciun spent her childhood in Woodberry near Maitland. When she was 16 she moved to Mayfield.
Craciun is passionate about textiles and fashion designs. She's explored hand-painted dresses, pattern making and hand-knitted jumpers.
"I think it brings me closer to Oma, my dad's mum. She lived with us right up until she passed, but she never forgot how to knit and she never forgot us. She taught me how to knit in the first place. Even the way I knit is the European way," Craciun says.
Her multicultural background has influenced her creativity in many ways. In recent years she's seen a shift to include aboriginal people in art and design work for companies, though there's a long way to go. She likes that lately there's more priority for aboriginal logos to be made by aboriginal designers.
She draws from her culture, but she doesn't want people to be able to predict what she'll paint. "Being an Aboriginal person, you're expected to be doing dot art and those traditional styles. Traditionally my family did a lot of lines, so I'm trying to incorporate that into what I do now, really thin lines," she says.
She wants to lead the way for young aboriginal and indigenous artists and encourage them to do more than paint. She'd love to see rural kids pick up design techniques, even if it's from YouTube and see more technology funding for kids in remote areas.
"I feel like in these rural communities, you give these kids paint brushes and paint, some of them will grow up and do that forever; we have a lot of Aboriginal artists. That's also part of why I'd like to be able go out home and offer my skills. I'd love there to be that availability and resources for kids to be able to get on computers and do what I do," she says.