Jerusha West

A selection of collaborative drawings made with Joel Wyllie, some of which were exhibited in “All That The Rain Promises And More”, Arusha Gallery, 2019

“All That the Rain Promises and More… is a group show hosted by Arusha Gallery as part of the Edinburgh Art festival, opening on 25th July. Guest curated by Aimée Parrott, this multi generational exhibition will bring together 18 artists working across a range of disciplines. The exhibition takes the fruiting body of the fungus - the mushroom, as its starting point; embracing the idea of the mushroom as organism which can perhaps, in a precarious age, serve as an unlikely source of hope - a symbol of connectivity, symbiosis and renewal. The rhyzomatic structure of fungus also provides a metaphor for the collection of artistic practices presented in this group show. Resisting a straightforward chronological approach or a linear narrative, the exhibition seeks to reconcile practices that overlap and interrelate despite spanning a period of over two hundred years. Each artist shares a preoccupation with the symbiotic connection we have with our environment, as is so aptly illustrated by the mushroom itself. Further, each recognises, idiosyncratically, the human body as a porous, precarious site and life as a transient and contingent state. The botanic illustrations of pioneering 18th century mycologists James Sowerby & James Bolton, on loan from the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh archive will sit alongside works by renown occultist, writer and painter Ithell Colquhoun (1906- 1988) and hugely influential artist Helen Chadwick (1953-1996) as well as contemporary artists including Emma Talbot, Sean Steadman and Paloma Proudfoot. As human beings we have shared an ancient and ambivalent relationship with the mushroom. Historically fungophobic nations such as Britain and the US have long regarded the mushroom with fear and revulsion, whilst for fungophilc cultures such as China, South America and most of the rest of Europe, the mushroom has long been revered as symbol of fertility, renewal and healing - not to mention as a gastronomically valuable and highly prized source of food. More recent history has seen a great increase in our understanding of the microscopic world and with it an even greater appreciation of fungi. It is now known that within a single teaspoon of soil there exists a microscopic universe of complex interdependent lifeforms invisible to the human eye. With this has come the knowledge that each supposedly ‘individual’ being in fact comprises an entire ecosystem of co-ordinated organisms, and that therefore no living thing on the planet can now be deemed a single biological entity. Arguably these revelations repudiate the long held belief that humans are some sort of primary species occupying a separate and elevated platform of existence. The mushroom then - as the fruiting body of the fungus only emerging when it wishes to reproduce through the secretion of spores - serves as an archetypal visual symbol for the ontological machinations of nature and the infinite contingency of biology. This exhibition takes the mushroom as means of exploring what new potential for art might lie in an attentiveness to the interdependency and complexity of all living things.”

Jerusha West © 2023