Before this project, the word “mushroom” conjured for me the marbled white-and-green fuzz on a carelessly discarded piece of fruit, or the lurid red toadstools so loved by children’s picture books. During the research process (from the works of Anna Tsing, Merlin Sheldrake, and Robert Macfarlane) I discovered not only that fungi were a species kingdom of their own but that they also were the centrepoint for a growing number of socio-ecological and political bodies of work.
A kingdom entirely separate from plants or animals, fungi cannot make their own food and rely on existing organic matter. For some fungi, this leads to symbiotic relationships, where both the fungus and its food source benefit from the relationship. The joyous boundary-crossing of fungal lifeforms reminded me of artistic cross-pollination: spores of one idea morphing into another, creating new relationships and work.
Spore is a work in two parts: a physical linoprint installation and an accompanying online artwork where each print is explored further and reflected through different mediums. The installation consists of a frame constructed from found objects, hung with eight black-and-white prints. The prints depict a woodland glade that is home to a variety of fungi, with the installation designed so that the lino prints move with the slightest gusts of air.
The online artwork (www.snehalexander-spore.com), reflects the hidden interconnection of mushrooms; a hyphal network of artistic responses. The Chicken of the Woods fungus sparks a mini-essay, for example, while Magpie Fungus evokes a short-form comic. In Spore, I took pleasure in the way that disparate forms could wind themselves together, not unlike the mutualism of mushrooms themselves.
This project was made possible by Grow Wild, (the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew). Grow Wild gives £500 grants to people aged 14-25 to lead creative projects to engage their peers and others with UK native plants and fungi.
The in-person exhibition London Grows Wild Together will be held at 70 St Mary Axe from Thursday 16th September until the 1st October and is open to the public.
Sneha is a painter, writer, and printmaker. She exhibited her first linoprint installation at It All Comes Down (2020), as part of the Barbican Centre’s Young Visual Arts Group exhibition.
After studying English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, Sneha combined her passions for art and literature in an MA in Postcolonial Studies (SOAS University of London) where she focused on queer and postcolonial interventions into the art world.
She is inspired by nature and is interested in the politics of people of colour in rural spaces. Her work often investigates myths, dreams, and relationships to land.