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Jo Elliott is an emerging artist from Sawtell, NSW and is exhibiting at SWELL for the first time. Writer Nicole Browne spoke with Jo about how she came to exhibit at SWELL, and what informs her artistic process.


JO: This is my first year exhibiting at SWELL, and I am really excited to be a part of it. As an emerging artist, this is an amazing opportunity. I have been involved in other large-scale sculpture exhibitions before, collaborating with other artists, yet this year at SWELL is my big opportunity to show as a solo artist. It is really exciting and a little bit scary as well.

NICOLE: What is your background?

JO: My background is in environmental science where I studied and worked my way up for 15 years. I put that all on hold to pursue art. I studied a certificate in design and moved on to a 2-year Diploma at TAFE. For most of those two years I explored a whole range of mediums and loved being pulled in many different directions, but at the end of the two years, I put my focus into one project. I was really excited to draw in my science background and create this fusion between art and science.

NICOLE: Let’s talk process.


JO: In the beginning, I didn’t really know where it was going to go. I started with a bit of a concept in mind, and some materials that I had found and loved. From there it evolved as I started playing with the materials and looking into how my concept could better communicate or transform using the materials that I had. I ended up with something entirely different, and over a few months, it had evolved into something, which all led me to what I am making for SWELL at the moment.

That is how it starts for me most of the time (not all of the time). I will begin with an idea or concept. Then I will find a material that will best suit that concept, and then it is a lot of experimenting, pulling things apart, putting them back together.

Creating work for SWELL has given me an opportunity to play with scale. I am used to doing quite intricate work, and now I am doing these microscopic forms on a much larger scale, which I have never done before. It changes everything about the work; I need to start speaking to people outside of myself now, like engineers.

Also, I have to travel to SWELL, and I’ve made it into 3 pieces so I can transport it to Currumbin and assemble on site. This part of the process calls for lots of problem solving, which I love.

“I believe artists have a powerful way to provoke thought and make people think differently about the world. Art gives people an opportunity to see things from a new perspective.”

NICOLE: Tell us a little bit about the work you are exhibiting at SWELL. 

JO: I have a lot of family in Currumbin, and we would often visit when I was a child. I have a lot of fond memories of the place. Because of this, the location of SWELL at Currumbin Beach is exciting for me.

My work is about the ocean. I have these large microscopic forms coming out of the ocean to re-invade us, like what we did to them. I have been working on the concept for War of the Worlds for two years, so I am really looking forward to seeing it up there, in place – realised!


NICOLE: The crossover between art and science is fascinating, can you tell me a bit more? 

JO: As I had a passion for the natural world and the environment, I moved into the field of environmental science. I thought I could make a change, and I did to some degree, but it was difficult. I believe artists have a powerful way to provoke thought and make people think differently about the world. Art gives people an opportunity to see things from a new perspective. The beauty of it is that it is accessible to all ages, to a large scale of people.

Most of my collaborations have involved an environmental component. That for me is my connection to art and community. A couple of years ago I collaborated with some friends, and we ran an environmental arts program which brought awareness to our endangered shorebirds and the natural environment around us.

It involved all aspects of the community, people of all ages, children, our indigenous population, retired people. It really brought our community together. People are still talking about it. We had an exhibition at the end, so it really did reach a lot of people. Art connects you to people you just wouldn’t normally meet. I am really looking forward to that while I am up for SWELL. Connecting with the other artists, and those who love SWELL. Artists I have met are very passionate about their work and the environment; I am looking forward to spending time and being immersed in it all.

Nicole Browne @mothersofourhood

Visit Jo Elliott’s War of the Worlds at Site 11 between 14 – 23 September at SWELL, Currumbin Beach.