“The damn’d farthing rush-light”
(“The Farthing Rushlight”, Sung by Mr. Fawcett, The New Evergreen, 1818)
This exhibition is borne out of a period of research and fascination with a misunderstood species. Effusus Over Nothing takes its name from phrases synonymous with this verdure – the common soft rush or Juncus Effusus – such as “not worth a rush” or “farthing rushlight”. In fact, this humble plant gave birth to the rushlight – a precursor to the candle and the original candle wick as well as numerous domestic, religious and industrial crafts that have woven the fabric of society and science. Spanning across a breadth of applications in Japan, Afghanistan, Iran and Europe it holds core cultural significance.
Hislop parallels this thinking with the current disconnect the human species has to terrestrial ecology. Effusus acts as a guardian to the natural world, offering itself up as feed, habitat, border and camouflage to other plant life, animals and insects. In its present guardianship it takes on a new role as super-filter to the run offs of industrialisation. This species continues to confound the deeper you dig.
This body of work has been developed across notable residencies including AiR Assens, Denmark, with thanks to the flax museum Hørvævsmuseet, Wasps x Marchmont House residency at Fogo Cottage and a childhood of walking the Scottish hillside peeling rushes and cloud spotting with David Hislop.
For this solo exhibition, Emma Hislop makes use of both galleries at Wasps’ Patriothall Gallery, Stockbridge. Taking audiences through this ‘farthing’ rush’s past, present and speculative future across sculpture, installation, drawings and photography. Hislop employs grandeur of bronze, iron, glass, ceramics amongst the pauper’s fibre. A new perspective narrating ecological oversight in a unique tension between myth and fact leaving viewers wondering about the ‘Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?’ (BBC 1952-59) of their everyday.
Work is accompanied by a resource library including archival commentary such as songs, poems, gentleman’s journals, agricultural discourse, evolution of artificial domestic light, religious applications, medicinal practices, recommended reading and reference books. Take a moment to absorb texts on the artist’s rush-seated stool made with The Marchmont Workshop, Rich Platt and Sam Cooper.
Emma Hislop is a Scottish artist currently living and working in Edinburgh. She graduated in 2019 from Glasgow School of Art and has since worked with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, British Society of Scientific Glassblowers, GENERATOR projects, Central Saint Martins and Creative Carbon Scotland.
Hislop explores ecological storytelling, playing with time/space shift technologies, archaeology and divination. She classifies her work as semi-fiction. Through material processes and histories she explores her interests in science and science fiction. Using an itching ontology that is expressed through world building and object populated installation to challenge the ideas of archive and preservation.