Helen Twigge-Molecey: Fungi at Palazzo Mora

Featured Artist

Helen Twigge-Molecey with glass fungi sculptures photographed by Sylvain Deleu

UK based artist Helen Twigge-Molecey’s installation at Palazzo Mora in Venice depicts a group of colorful fungi. Each hand-blown recycled glass piece features individual shapes and interconnects with its neighbours through translucency and color. This installation is part of the Venice 2022 Art Biennial organized by the non-profit organization European Cultural Center, running from April 23, 2022 through November 27th, 2022.

What drew you to glass?

I’ve always collected glass–there’s something about it that I just find beautiful and magical. Whenever I visited glass studios I was mesmerised by the glassblowers. Then one day I had a go myself and was instantly hooked. I loved the immediacy of working with hot glass and the way you can play with it and how transforms.

What would you like to share about your Fungi installation at Palazzo Mora?

The installation combines my love of glass and fascination with fungi. It’s a collection of hand-blown recycled glass sculptures that aim to shine a spotlight on the magical world of mushrooms and encourage us to reconsider our relationship with our surroundings and each other.

Fungi are amongst the oldest and youngest life form on earth, can digest toxic waste and through underground networks help trees communicate. I was amazed to discover that fungi have their own kingdom and are actually more closely related to humans than to plants. Like many people I had assumed that mushrooms were a vegetable but thanks to the eye-opening documentary Fantastic Fungi, Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Life and mycologist Giuliana Furci’s work, I became inspired and intrigued by this extraordinary underexplored world.

When I placed my glass sculptures in clusters to echo the way that fungi often grow in nature, I was fascinated by the effect they had on one another. Each sculpture is unique, with its own personality. However, despite being inanimate they seem to interact with each other, the colour from one reflected in another, creating even richer, more vibrant, shapes and patterns.

Cuban-American sculptor Jorge Pardo sums it up when he says: “Objects can speak if you change them, if you do something to them, if you interact with them,” and this is what I’m hoping people will take away from my installation. When entering the room, at first glance visitors might be drawn to the colours and shapes, but if they look closely they might also engage with the sculptures and appreciate how everything is interconnected and everything affects everything else – it sounds obvious but sometimes it’s easy to forget.

Fungi installation by Helen Twigge-Molecey at Palazzo Mora, Venice 2022

As well as an exuberant celebration of individuality, my glass sculptures are also a tribute to community, relationships and neighbours. These themes chimed for me in an unexpected way when I installed my work in Palazzo Mora and for the first time saw it in connection with the other artworks in the room. My pieces sat alongside photographer Martin Parr’s exuberant photos of people dancing, Peter Gospodinov’s abstract paintings and Bruno Surdo’s monolithic work. They were all completely different yet somehow hung together and I could then appreciate the clever curation by The European Cultural Centre. I was also mindful of how special it is to exhibit in Venice, famous worldwide for its excellence in glass. As a relative newcomer to the medium, I’m grateful that whilst not in the league of the masters of Murano, I was invited to show off the dazzling brilliance of glass in a different way for this year’s ‘Personal Structures’ exhibition aptly themed ‘Reflections’.

You were also part of a collective of artists imagining the future in an immersive experience that took place across five floors of South Bank’s Bargehouse. What can you share about your work in that context?

This was an exhibition called Mars and Beyond, curated by Oskar Ok Krajewski, which merged two critical themes of the 21st century: global warming and the revival of the space race. It was a collaboration of more than 40 artists and contributors including Greenpeace, Sci-Fi London and Flux and took place in a vast unconverted warehouse by the River Thames near the Oxo Tower in London.

It was an interactive experience including artworks made from waste and recycled materials, augmented reality, virtual reality, soundscapes and performances. My contribution was a series of stainless steel sculptural kaleidoscopes with interchangeable ends showing everyday objects – broken sunglasses, a bar code and even a parking ticket – in a new light.

Kaleidoscopic by Helen Twigge-Molecey, Mars & Beyond Exhibition, Oxo Bargehouse, London 2020

Helen Twigge-Molecey is an artist and designer who enjoys working in different media – especially glass – and has a studio near Brighton, England. With a background as a TV director, Helen’s interests are eclectic – from the hand-made to the industrial and the functional to the fantastic. She has a Master’s degree in product design from the University for the Creative Arts and her projects range from toy design to conceptual art and large-scale public installations. She has exhibited internationally and been featured in magazines, newspapers and on television. Helen is interested in how you can effect change through a positive experience. Underpinning her work is a desire to make it beautiful, simple, accessible and fun. Her current focus is on creating fungi-inspired installations incorporating mycelium structures, kinetic sculptures and sculptural glass lighting.