We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting


Mushrooms 2



Jelena Telecki

Yugoslavia, Australia

1976 –

  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    oil on linen
    139.0 x 112.0 cm
    Purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2021
    Accession number
    © Jelena Telecki

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Jelena Telecki

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Jelena Telecki’s paintings and installations evade easy interpretation; oblique references to art history are intercut with an absurdist impulse and laced with dark humour. Narrative is alluded to but often upended. Subjects become ciphers who are often (aptly) veiled. Yet even as they appear impenetrable and aloof, these opaque characters compel a kind of tenderness.

    Allusions to Telecki’s personal history sometimes penetrate her work but are often left buried. Telecki’s family left her hometown, Split, Croatia, during the Yugoslavian civil war, living in Belgrade as refugees before she migrated to Australia alone in 1999. The sense of dislocation and dissociation that dominates many of her tableaux can read as a surreal souvenir of this experience. The legacies of historical trauma infiltrate her work through the evocation of dominance and power play mapped out in the tension felt between the figures of her fictive worlds.

    Telecki understands the symbolic (and political) potential of mise en scène: she can convey the complexities and entwinement of power and trauma through a single painted leather boot or a dirty white sock. In much of her work, this mise en scène functions as a means of tightly delineating space to create zones of action where figures encounter and collide with one another. The canvas becomes a bubble within which nuanced social interactions are mapped. Often, these interactions appear charged with a psychosexual intensity and articulate complex power dynamics.

    It is with this context in mind that we might view the mushrooms that appear in Mushrooms 2 as active participants in the story rather than simply surreal scenery. Mushrooms are social organisms. They connect and communicate via a complex matrix of mycelium (or root system). 'Mushrooms 2' was painted in the midst of the pandemic, when social connectivity was stymied. While the painting depicts a solitary figure traversing a forest of overgrown mushrooms (perhaps a gentle nod to the shape shifting mushrooms in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) it is not a lonely scene. Arched towards the central figure and emitting their own light, the mushrooms attain a kind of kinship. We feel as much pathos for these strange forms as we do for the person who stands amongst them. Perhaps we even recognise ourselves in this uncanny cohort; immersed in our own private worlds yet ever connected.