Today, in honour of the launch of her new series, we’re taking a trip with Jana Nicole into the Kingdom of Fungi – a still largely-unknown world of marvellous species with the ability to help plants communicate, cure disease, spark creativity and inspire myth and legend.
Jana Nicole’s Fabulous Fungi series features four new pieces; Sunbathes, Moonglow, Upspring and Sylvan, each chosen to reflect how the fungi appear at certain times of day or night and with the change of the seasons. These painstakingly-crafted glowing wonderlands depict the beauty of mushrooms, moss and mycelium.
In today’s blog, we’re chatting to Nicole to learn more about the fungi that inspired this new series, and to discover how she crafts her award-winning collages…
As a big supporter of rewilding charities such as Connecting the Roots, and the Fungi Foundation based in Brazil, it was a logical step for Jana Nicole to expand her Botanical Troupe series into the fascinating world of fungi. Speaking of the new series, Nicole tells us:
“My intention is to be a bridge between art and science so that more people can see the astounding beauty of fungi but not feel like they have to understand every element of what’s going on. I want to foster a little bit of respect, a little bit of understanding and highlight the medicinal effect of these incredible fungi. I don’t want people to fear it. I want them to see how incredible this is and how much we can learn and evolve from it.”
Friend or foe?
As Nicole suggests, for centuries fungi have been depicted as something to be feared. A recent example is smash hit TV show The Last of Us, which has just gripped viewers with its depiction of a post-apocalyptic future where a predatory fungus has taken over the world.
“The show is great but Cordyceps [the fungi depicted] is such a medicinal mushroom and it's being viewed in The Last of Us as something that’s evil. This is a prime example of the microphobia that has made us all fear mushrooms for being toxic when really they have so many good qualities too.”
Despite this portrayal, around the world, people are waking up to the benefits of mushrooms, and this awakening was something that Nicole wanted to play a role in…
“Mushrooms aren’t addictive, they’re a learning experience, they open minds and hearts. They’re good for everything from boosting creativity to helping with PTSD, that’s why the FDA are finally conducting these studies with the view to making them legal.”
“The Fabulous Fungi series is designed to show the beauty and complexity of fungi in a bid to stop people being afraid and to instead make people revere and respect this gift from nature. Just to overlook it, pull it up or dismiss it as poisonous is such a waste of what it is and what it can teach us.”
Each of Nicole’s artworks is created from hundreds of carefully-selected and hand-made elements, many of which she finds in vintage botany books. She tells us, “I just like the colour and shapes of things that are older.”
Interestingly, the imagery is also mostly-sourced from the research of female Victorian botanists – many of whom are now considered the unsung heroes of the mycology world.
“Back then, women weren’t allowed on research explorations. One woman dressed as a man to fool the group into letting her go along. These women really had to forge ahead without any support. I find them fascinating and their drawings are incredible.”
“There have also been some surprises – Beatrix Potter for example. I wasn’t at all interested in her until I discovered that she was also a mycologist. Her drawings of mushrooms are beautiful. That’s way more exciting than Peter Rabbit!”
Once Nicole has sourced her images, she hand-draws and paints each of them, before manipulating the colours digitally so that they become the vibrant hues that make them look so alive. She also creates her own mushrooms based on the species that she has discovered. “Each collage is a mixture of old, modern and brand new - I create my own gardens.”
With over six million species of fungi in the world, we were interested in how Nicole selected which to include. She reveals:
“For these artworks, I’ve chosen my favourite mushrooms – the ones that I’ve fallen in love with and that have the best story. An oyster mushroom is a great example. If it’s in an environment that’s not giving it the right nutrients, the mycelium will turn into a predator and lasso tiny worms to provide it with the nutrients that it needs.”
“The Fly Agaric mushroom – the red and white toadstool that we all know from cartoons and fairy tales – has a wonderful story. Apparently, the shamans of the tribes that herd reindeer in Lapland and Siberia used to take the mushrooms for their psychoactive qualities, and upon seeing reindeer leaping, thought that they were flying, hence the idea of flying reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh!”
Jana Nicole’s Fabulous Fungi series is available now at Enter Gallery.