Good Sport Gallery
September 23 – October 22, 2022
By Reilly Knowles
Shannon Taylor-Jones has transformed the gallery into a tender, ghostly woodland.
Crossing the threshold of Good Sport Art Gallery & Studio in London, Ontario, I’m beckoned inside the space by mossy nets of knitting. At first, the woolen sculptures hanging from the ceiling evoke decaying flora, but as I draw close, figures reveal themselves: plush blobs like decomposing faces with stretched sockets, then intestinal snakes of bubble-gum pink. Their bodies are reclaimed by the forest, pleading for careful touches – indeed, gentle interaction is encouraged by the artist. Each sculpture feels painstakingly placed and distinct, disallowing the installation from truly feeling ‘wild,’ yet each one flows in and out of the other, like one lyric leading to the next.
Tucked inside and hanging from the textiles are specimens of crusted fungi and crispy leaves, chosen as carefully as jewels for their unique colours and shapes. Amidst the textiles are also oil paintings on panel, which appear like beetroot and rotted spinach smeared across lumber. The paintings are far stronger when intermixed with the textiles, and the span of wall dedicated to three panels feels quiet in proximity to its richer surroundings. Beneath the central corner of the installation is a blanket with three knitted pillows for visitors to rest and contemplate.
Taylor-Jones is an emerging interdisciplinary artist working in Toronto and London and has been a member of Good Sport (a collective as well as a gallery and studio space) since 2018.1 She explores decay and mycology as a way of thinking through the human body’s place in its ecosystem and its relationship to mortality. Her work is a way of affirming every organism’s tethers to the whole of nature, and every organism’s experience of the eternal tides of making and unmaking.2 As she writes in the exhibition’s accompanying text: “Corporeality is haunted by intimate kinship. That which is ‘human’ is not separate from ‘nature,’ but is deeply, intrinsically embedded within it. Art making is not an individual act, but a fertile collaboration of life, death, and the inbetween.”3
Taylor-Jones especially sees an affinity between the messiness of nature and the messiness of being disabled. That is to say, the messiness of being a body that is idiosyncratic beyond social acceptance, of being a body that feels both intense joy and intense pain. As she writes: “The intersection of disability/neurodivergence/madness is a liminal place of being, an ecosystem of simultaneous, disparate truths, where growth and decay both thrive.”3 She views the planet itself as disabled, its systems disjointed by climate change. In the face of surviving on this disabled globe, she contends: “people who live in disabled bodies are the people to look to for how to live and build on a disabled planet… To live on this planet, we need to think differently, and I think we need to think about the interconnection of all life (and death), and we need to recognize non-human beings as important, as equal, as intelligent.”5
The softness and slowness of the installation feels poignant at a point in the pandemic when people have long since been ordered to throw down their joyful, soft pursuits and return to their jobs per usual, to once more submit to the oppressive capitalist grind. As a person with severe chronic fatigue, Taylor-Jones critiques the notion that people must always be productive, as well as hypocritical discourse within disability activist spaces that often shames people for ‘not doing enough.’6
Amidst this onslaught, her exhibition beckons: ‘Come, rest awhile. Rest inside the coming and the going. Everything is not well, but it’s beautiful in any case. Sit inside my uneasy loveliness.’
in and as an ecosystem continues until October 22nd, 2022 at Good Sport Art Gallery & Studio (402.5 Richmond St., London, Ontario). The gallery is open Saturdays 12 – 4 pm, or by appointment. This exhibition review was written for Ruth Skinner’s course The Greatest Shows on Earth at Western University.
1 “Shannon Taylor-Jones,” Good Sport, Good Sport Art Gallery & Studio. Accessed September 26, 2022. https://www.good-sport.ca/shannon-taylor-jones.
2 Correspondence with the artist.
3 Shannon Taylor-Jones, “in and as an ecosystem,” Good Sport, Good Sport Art Gallery & Studio. Accessed September 26, 2022. https://www.good-sport.ca/current.
5 Correspondence with the artist.