The name that seems to be on everyone’s lips is Sarah Jane Justice. As an award-winning spoken word performer, prose writer, poet, and musician, she’s a quadruple threat. Whether her science-fiction is gracing the pages of an anthology, or she’s baring her soul at a Paroxysm event, Sarah always executes her work to perfection. Ahead of her latest project, Cracks in Our Shadows, I was fortunate enough to get some insight into her artistic practice, motherhood, and the importance of self-care.
To make it anywhere in this industry, it’s important to build your skills in multiple areas. As an accomplished writer, Sarah Jane Justice has proven to be a real chameleon and a rarity to the local scene.
‘‘[I’m] an artist who is always evolving. I’ve worked in a lot of different areas [which have all had their own] different experiences. For me, it’s an adventure… [I like] finding my greatest strengths and developing them, but also in trying anything new that presents an opportunity.”
While many artists work on an impulse, Sarah has seen the value of managing her time and structuring the way she practices her craft. Checklists, warm-up exercises, and spreadsheets ensure that Sarah is meticulous with everything she does.
“I have a real emphasis on organisation,” says Sarah. “It seems almost counter-intuitive to approach creativity in such a methodical way, but I think that really works in my favour. When I manage to set aside time, I structure it for maximum efficiency.
“That being said, it often happens that an idea strikes me out of nowhere and I find myself grabbing for anything I can reach so I can write it down as quickly as I can. I suppose my greatest motivation stems from having an idea that I get excited about turning into reality.”
For someone who is so detail-oriented, it might come as no surprise that Sarah finds inspiration through STEM and its relationship to traditional artistic practices. Among some of her major influences are Tim Minchin and Bill Bailey, who have been known to embrace this as a source of creative energy.
“There is this tendency in our culture to see the arts and the sciences as diametrically opposed, but we stand to gain so much for combining them,” says Sarah.
Aside from being a talented writer, Sarah is also a dedicated mother and has recently given birth to an adorable baby girl named Kalli. While she was, admittedly, a little nervous about losing her creative momentum, Sarah has managed to find a healthy balance between the two.
“In the time that I was pregnant… I was getting work published, performing regularly as a spoken word artist, and working towards goals that had previously seemed so distant. I was really worried about losing that, so I put a lot of focus into planning how to keep it going. I’ll make sure to do a little bit of writing where I can, just to keep the ball in motion. Versatility has been the key.”
Through this, Sarah has strengthened her relationship with self-care and reminds herself of the important role it plays in her life. As she’s come to realise, calming her mind and taking a step back is vital.
“As someone who has fought quite severe mental health issues for a long time, self-care is a really important factor in every area of my life. I’m forever reminding myself that time spent resting is not time wasted. In fact, it’s essential.
“For me, the key to effective self-care is knowing myself and being aware of what I need, and the particular strategies that work. My approach [is to] respect my own needs instead of pushing myself too far.”
Over the past few months, Sarah has been in the process of developing a collaborative exhibition at Port Adelaide’s Mixed Creative. Titled Cracks in Our Shadows it is said to be a poetic narrative that guides the viewer through a curated blend of poems and photographs.
“The project was developed because Phillip Walker, who is a very talented photographer, approached me with the idea,” tells Sarah.
“The aim is to use the physical space to create a more immersive storytelling experience. The works create a narrative that is designed for the viewer to project their own story into the gaps. Our words and images suggest just enough for the audience to start seeing their own experiences and ideas in between them.”
Sarah has written 24 individual poems in response to Phillip’s photography and suggests that if you look at the display chronologically, you will notice built in ‘chapters’ that relate to certain stylistic qualities.
“Once I had the basic structure, I started to see a story,” says Sarah, “The words started forming quite naturally in my head. When I had the order set out, I took a moment to stare at each photograph and figure out what it needed to suggest.”
While Cracks in Our Shadows will premiere in November, the original showing was planned for the month of April. However, due to the wave of COVID-19, the exhibit had to be put on an immediate hiatus.
“The timing really hit us hard, as we had everything lined up and then were forced to cancel. [Even so], the hardest part is that Phillip is based in Melbourne, so unfortunately, he won’t be able to attend the first showing. We’re looking to set up a video link for him to attend the launch in digital form,” says Sarah.
While the virus may have put a spanner in the works, it certainly hasn’t dulled their shine. The pair intend on touring the exhibition when it’s feasible and are currently in the process of looking at potential arts festivals and gallery spaces. Sarah says the impact of COVID-19 has only added fuel to their fire and provided them with a real incentive take this unique exhibit further.
Cracks in Our Shadows will premiere at Mixed Creative in Port Adelaide on 6 November at 6pm, and will run until 19 November during the venue’s regular opening hours. Admission is free of charge.