U2. critical reflection

I continued to develop my Unit 2 by delving deeper into the books and research I encountered in Unit 1. Fay Ballard’s drawings inspired me to uncover the small worlds of life that are easily overlooked. The book “Entangled Life” allowed me to further explore fungal imagery, while Wim van Egmond’s “Micro Landscapes” provided a different perspective on the microscopic world, magnified under a microscope or through a camera lens.

To summarize, The key words that summarise these three key references are micro, magnification, exposure, and drawing, which have significantly influenced my work.

I took these Key words summarised in Unit 1 and added my own explorations.

My key words became:

Nature – Ecology – Fungi – Microcosmic – Strangeness of forms – Entanglement – Life form – biology of plant forms – Immortal  – Connection – Universe

- Artist: Michael landy -

Michael Landy is a British artist. His previous works often focus on social issues and consumerism. He uses installation art, performance art, public art, video art, and drawing. His works not only look interesting but also make people think. Here, I want to talk about his Nourishment series of etchings from 2002. The title comes from the idea that these plants grow well with very little nourishment.

Michael Landy’s Nourishment series has 12 etchings. Each one is 89 x 77.3 cm. They are almost life-size. From a distance, you can see the whole weed, from flower to root. Up close, you can see the detailed lines. This makes me think about the size and position of my prints when I make my lithographs. When I look at large artworks, I often focus on the details and forget the whole picture.

Landy says, “I chose weeds because I find them optimistic. They don’t need care; they like to grow in the cracks of the street.” He looks at empty urban areas and places people ignore, like cracks in sidewalks and edges of parking lots. Landy once tried growing urban weeds at home, but they didn’t do well with care. He realized that these weeds grow better in asphalt cracks. Landy’s series shows his own experiences, like those of homeless or neglected people in society, similar to the weeds he draws.

These overlooked things, like weeds, show life and strength. Landy carefully observes details from roots and leaves to flowers and decay, showing the life force of these everyday, overlooked figures. The beauty of any life is not in its social status but in its existence. Similarly, my fungal series aims to highlight tiny organisms to show the diverse beauty of life.

In my drawing practice, I need to observe the details of fungi as carefully as Michael observed wild plants. In Unit 3, I can explore more detailed images or specimens from archives or collections.

- Kelly Chorpening -

Kelly Chorpening is an American artist whose work explores identity, memory, and the relationship between humans and the natural environment. Her piece “Old Friends and Plastic” has had a big influence on my own work.

“Old Friends and Plastic” is a drawing made with pencil and conte crayon on paper. She uses pencil to carefully draw wood and red conte crayon to draw the plastic parts. This creates a visual effect that looks like a lightning bolt across the paper.

Kelly’s work often starts with simple observations. As she said, “I just decided to do something very obvious. I’m going to go for a walk, look around, see what’s on the ground, collect some things, and then draw because I missed drawing.” This way of drawing, driven by curiosity, often shows deeper complexities. As Lanier (2023) noted, “Drawing something ordinary, with real sincerity—a commitment to reality—quickly becomes complex.” Similarly, my work began without deep thought. I was interested in the cycle of death and rebirth in fungi, which led me to understand their role and importance to us.

In Kelly’s words, “When she moved out of the dense urban environment of London, it allowed for encounters with ‘nature,’ ironically, and inevitably, also with trash.” The plastic problem remains severe, with plastic infiltrating our bodies and surrounding environments. The term “microplastics” was coined in 2004, and defined as particles less than five millimetres in diameter. “Microplastics are breaking down further into even smaller pieces. Meanwhile, plastic microfibers have been found in municipal drinking water systems and are drifting in the air” (Parker, 2024). “Tiny plastic particles have been found everywhere, from the deepest part of the Earth, the Mariana Trench, to the top of Mount Everest” (Pinto-Rodrigues, 2023). Influenced by Kelly Chorpening, I began observing the trash and plastic in natural settings. During my exploration of fungi, I learned that fungi not only play a role in the transformation of life but also have applications for plastic. “Fungi are responsible for turning death into new life, growing out of decay. Oyster mushrooms can even digest plastic, suggesting that fungi might help us avoid ecological collapse in another way” (Defebaugh, 2022).


I photographed rubbish and plastic:

Screenshot from my video:

My stitching practice:

I took photos and recorded the trash and plastics I saw in Nottingham, considering how to use these materials in my project. In one experiment, I explored using needle and thread in my drawings. The red threads represent the flow of life, symbolizing the presence of microplastics in our blood. Following my tutor’s suggestion, I plan to incorporate found nylon ropes or plastic into my work or use them as photographic material, in my U3 project development and exploration.

2024, Sketch.
2024,Flooded bridge.
2024,Same stump, different life on it.
2024,The same stump.
2023,The stump where the mushrooms were found.
2023,Photo taken standing on the bridge.

This May, I revisited the location near the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham where I had discovered mushrooms in Unit 1. However, I noticed a different landscape compared to last year. From the photos, it’s evident that the wooden logs where mushrooms grew last winter are now covered in moss. Additionally, there are discarded plastic strips on the wooden posts, presumably used for warning or blocking purposes. The most significant change is the absence of the wooden bridge that was present last winter; instead, the water level has submerged it. Consequently, I couldn’t get as close to the tree stump where mushrooms grew before because the ground has become very damp. During this visit, I conducted brief sketches and collected images with my camera, capturing various vegetation and spatial elements. I focused on capturing the entanglement of branches and the flooded forest. I plan to depict the forms of the branches I collected with my phone through drawing.

- White Cube -

In my view, Sergej Jensen, Yoko Matsumoto, and Zao Wou-Ki share commonalities in their artworks, which is why I associate them together. Their works offer me visual inspiration in terms of color. When I see their pieces, I feel as though I am witnessing the infinite, the unknown, and the mysterious aspects of the universe, evoking a sense of the sublime. While their styles and methods of expression differ, their artworks all demonstrate a shared concern for nature and incorporate abstract elements. In the section on color exercises, I referenced the works of these three artists.

Sergej Jensen

Sergej Jensen is a contemporary artist from Denmark and Germany, renowned for his minimalist paintings and mixed media works. His pieces often utilize unconventional materials and techniques, exploring the relationship between color, texture, and surface.


When I encountered his work at the white cube gallery, the first impression that came to mind was of the universe, infinity, and a sense of the sublime. “He seems intent on merging painting with a larger painting universe, including textiles and other crafts” (Smith, 2011). His pieces exude a gentle beauty, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the sense of space he creates. Walking around his pieces in the gallery feels like contemplating the mysteries and gentleness of the universe.

In this unit, I am exploring the appearance of fungal life growing in space. There is a specialized field of research dedicated to fungi in space, known as ‘astrofungology,’ which is a subset of astrobiology (European Space Agency, 2024). However, after engaging in various color exercises, I realized that the feelings I sought to evoke from colors did not align with my current drawing. Nevertheless, this exploration helped me understand that it’s okay to acknowledge when something doesn’t fit and that it’s still a valuable learning experience. Therefore, for my next color exploration, I may use my videos and collected images of garbage and plastic as further color foundations and explorations, delving deeper into the entanglement of my themes with fungi and the environment.

Yoko Matsumoto was born in Tokyo, and her paintings handle color in a meditative way. Viewing her works feels like observing the wind, rain, nature, and even the universe. She creates large-scale paintings in a free-form, intuitive manner. As the artist herself stated, “I place my work on the floor to paint, letting my sweat drip onto it continuously. It’s physical labor, pure and simple, with no time for questioning. This work doesn’t allow me to think; there’s no time to think, and I become one with the painting.”


Color holds special significance for Yoko. In her pink paintings, she explains, “Unlike black and white, pink has no concept; instead, it exists in the deepest recesses of our subconscious, unreachable.” Her use of color is meaningful. “Since 2006, I have mostly used green and blue. The inspiration for green comes from nature, while blue represents a ‘magical power’ that ‘transcends all boundaries’ for the artist, capable of altering the space and quality of the painting. In recent works, the artist focuses on using white applied with a roller. Developed from studying the sky, these vague concepts lead the artist to liken the presentation of her works to an exploration of the ‘afterlife'” (Westall, 2024). When learning color handling from Yoko, I experimented with monoprints, resulting in a brush-like texture that lacked the gentleness I desired. Additionally, I attempted to print on fabric, but the folds and the fabric’s uneven surface caused the colors to appear faint.

Yoko Matsumoto 
Zao Wou-Ki 

Zao Wou-Ki, born in 1920, integrated traditional Chinese painting with European modernism, embodying the concept of “unity of heaven and man” where all things harmoniously coexist in his paintings.

I selected colors from his works for the hand-colored part of my project. However, when I used watercolors, crayons, and pastels, the colors appeared too vibrant, deviating greatly from the sublime feeling I sought. I believe the issue lies in two aspects: firstly, I did not grasp the artist’s mindset when painting colors, and secondly, I should have sought colors that truly suited my work and learned how to use them effectively.

Colour Study:

- George Shaw -

George Shaw is famous for his highly detailed paintings and drawings, often focusing on suburban themes. After seeing two very striking trees while walking in the woods, he created the lithographs “Black Magic” and “White Magic.” He said, “On the same day, I witnessed these two trees, one very white, one very black, both grown or broken into the same shape as each other.”


When I look at these two works, the scenes immediately take me back to the trees full of life that I encountered in the forest. Sometimes, I feel the shapes of the branches are communicating and displaying something. The small branches are tightly entangled and intertwined. During Unit 1, I was inspired by George’s works to draw the various shaped branches that cover the mushrooms. As the project progressed, I realized that the element of “entanglement” became increasingly important in my work.

“The threads of fungi intertwine with the tips of tree roots, forming an underground network” (Pappas, 2023). In Chinese traditional customs, when a person dies, they are buried to return to the land and nature. There seems to be a connection between humans and nature. Therefore, when a person dies life continues to be intertwined with nature in such a relevant way.

Some photos I took of plant forms that will be developed for drawing in Unit 3:

Reflecting on this unit, I found that the effects of my drawings were unexpected. I can think about how to add some new elements to my project, such as combining stitching and video materials. This will make the content richer and more complete. In this unit, I spent a lot of time exploring different drawing feelings and often forgot about the overall concept. In future explorations, I hope to start with small-size experimental works to avoid spending too much time away from the main drawing focus. If the small-size experimental works match my expectations, I can then consider different sizes and reasonable time planning. I remember an artist once told me, “When you choose a technique, you should know why you’re using it.” His words unraveled the confusion I had about my interest in trying out various techniques. In his view, I should highlight my drawing, and stone lithography is the most suitable and expedient method for me compared to etching. I agree with him. Also When I talked to Fungai about the development of my project, she said, “When you move from one idea to the next, don’t forget to look back at your original idea.” I think this is something I need to face and always remind myself if what I’m doing now is related to my Topic.

In the exercises for Unit 2, the new images brought by phototransfer will be the direction I continue to explore in Unit 3, such as adding new drawings to the images. I will also organize and combine my current works and read books about ecology and nature to continue experimenting and integrating them in future exercises.