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  • Writer's picturewyldeoakeartistry

1st April 2023

Wow where did the last 6 months go? ........ I guess the answer is in developing new work through consolidating theoretical and visual research into art I feel confident with and want to actively share. My masters degree studies have taken me on quite the journey in terms of exploration of style, narratives and also artistic materials but also because of its incorporation as part of my day to day practice: the study and WOA have become one as I have become a research-led or practice-led artist dependent on the week and project in hand. I currently find myself wanting to leave theoretical research on the bookshelf whilst I concentrate on visual research through a continued exploration of mixed media and inter-disciplinary work; with a focus in the coming days on recording my response to specific materials and papers. I am unsure as to where the student ends and the artist now begins or vice versa - there is no separation between the two but what is apparent is now the fact that I am deeply emotionally invested in what I do to an extent never before experienced. My work has become a part of me and art is something I want to live and breathe - it has become more than just a passion but something that makes my soul sing. Prior to the last few months, or more specifically weeks, I can admit that I really loved what I did but something was missing and that something was an inter-related connectivity to my subject that became apparent whilst watching a commercially purchased shiitake mushroom kit grow:

This purchase was partly artistic and also partly a necessity as we have been unable to access our local woodlands in recent weeks due to an unforeseen personal circumstance meaning I had to find ways of documenting fungi and responding to them within my studio space. I had long considered purchasing such a kit but on ethical grounds was unsure how I felt as ultimately these kits, due to their commercial nature, mean that the fungal kingdom is already part of a capitalised society. However, aside from also providing a quite marvelous lunch, they also solved a frustrating issue with the shiitake mushrooms also providing considerable fascination: both of us studied their growth daily, with me responding visually artisitically and also through critical analysis for my studies but also they created dialogue between us both. Not just as a business partnership but also as a personal partnership we discussed the daily growth, textures and our own emotional reaction to them in part due to the fact that my partner doesn't eat mushrooms. I found myself with a deep emotional investment during the growing phase but found myself disconnecting immediately before harvest which was something I didn't expect whereas my partner retained that emotional connection and in some ways resented the harvesting: the shiitake's had become a non-human 'pet' within our household/studio environment. What was also of great interest was that we both fought against the anthropomorphizing of this fungal organism but I accepted the inevitable harvest for food or what was deemed 'the inevitable deliciousness'!! We had a slight gender reversal reactivity to the fungal form as I took a more traditional detached role, at the point of harvest, whereas my partner took on a more traditional female empathetic role - something which surprised us both. Suffice to say many conversations took place throughout the week not least also because my partner is watching The Last of Us TV series which thus far I, being the slightly cowardly lion I am, have refused to watch but our conversations has meant that he is researching fungi in his own right and not through me as a secondary source: he has taken his own interest meaning that our eventual forays back into the woodlands become joint foraying trips. As stated above I was also able to respond on a daily basis to the shiitake growth documenting through an exploration of mixed media - soft pastels, pastel pencils or acrylic inks and so forth. The speed of growth forced a daily artistic habit no matter what I was doing that day even if in theory I had only 10 minutes but in reality, between writing and sketching, this turned into often 3-4 hours - but it was 3-4 hours of immersion and creating that missing connectivity. I watched a living fungal organism grow within my studio space, taking care of it and sustaining it. This was not human food but an organism which I studied theoretically and was now able to observe at close quarters over the space of 7 - 10 days creating a inter-species respect that I had to learn through first hand observation. The food element of my response was I now feel as way of paying homage to the fungi through them becoming a part of me and sustaining me beyond those that live on and within the human body.

However, my thanks to the mycelium log was given as it was broken up and spread over a garden border albeit not before a second attempt at growing a new flush had taken place. The fungi came from nature and returned to nature even if in a small garden ecosystem. But what next? a new kit (the second of three intended purchases) is growing on a shelf: that of the Lions Mane mushroom which is a type I have only recently become aware of. It is grown as an edible mushroom, by commercial or small business growers, but we are now finding ourselves fascinated by its cauliflower or sponge-like forms but here I have made a small mistake, as at the point of writing, I have not taken daily photographs or documented its growth: in part because the first 7 days the mycelium took time to grow and spores to pin to produce points of fruiting body growth. Secondly, I wanted to simply observe, without actively analysing but merely to enjoy the observation of this new organism although it is now at a point where perhaps MA blog documentation should take place!

What is now obvious, I hope to you as a reader, is that within this practice and within the fungal kingdom the theoretical and artistic research have become one: there is a deep connectivity that will be seen within the mixed-media and inter-disciplinary work that is being produced that I aim to create a narrative that may vary dependent on individual audience perception. What my intended narrative is and what yours may be could well be very different, but what now matters to me is the dialogue you have around the fungal kingdom and how you consider your connectedness to this organism that not only gave us life but sustains our lives and the life of our planet.

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