MENU A’LA CARTE: Culinary arts and the avant-garde
“Food can be expressive and therefore food can be art.” - Grant Achatz The culinary arts and the avant-garde have often come together to dramatic and inspired effect, which should come as no surprise given their inherent ability to provoke us both physically and emotionally.
Art allows us to consider things from a different perspective. By depicting food in a certain way or in a specific context, we can create works of art that are subjective or ripe with connotation. Consider Andy Warhol’s now-infamous painting series, Campbell Soup Cans (1962). Its order of arrangement is evocative of a supermarket aisle, which represents society’s obsession with mass production and consumerism.
Similarly, conceptual artist Jennifer Rubell creates grandiose displays involving an array of edible delights. In one instance, onlookers were encouraged to gorge on 2000 lb worth of BBQ ribs. In another, she decorated a padded room with 1,600 cones of cotton candy as well as 1,521 doughnuts that were strung up from the ceiling. Of course, these are not the only artists who have used art in conjunction with food to provoke conversations, stir ideas, and create interesting works. Here’s a selection of artists, past and present, who have found their own ways of fusing the two.
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Starter: Giuseppe Arcimboldo
Italian artist Giuseppe Acrimboldo (1527 – 1593) is best remembered for his elaborate pagan-esque portraits of people. At first glance, his paintings may appear to be colorful exaggerations of his subjects, but a closer inspection reveals that their features are made up of fruit, vegetables, and knotted foliage. Exulting a bizarre sensibility within a more traditionalist method, his work defies categorization.
His paintings are also notable for their surrealism, though his work predated surrealism by some four event-packed centuries. Salvador Dali (1904 – 1989), who is perhaps the movement’s most prominent artist, citied Acrimboldo as a direct influence. His paintings demonstrate an exceptional level of artistic capability, whilst personifying man’s intricate relationship with the natural world, which is why his work was greatly revered during his lifetime and continues to fascinate us today.
Main: Christel Assante
French artist Christel Assante is renowned for her intricate eggshell carvings. Whilst the natural fragility of her preferred medium makes it rather time consuming and difficult to carve, Christel’s work contains a staggering amount of pain-staking detail: oriental dragons, exotic landscapes, and lavish patterns. It serves as an evocative reminder of our own mortality, forcing us to reconsider mainstream notions of art. Upon completion, she places a light bulb in each shell to illuminate its details and, perhaps, shine a light on the bigger picture.
Dessert: James Ostrer The work of British artist James Ostrer has garnered adulation from across the globe. According to Ostrer, it's a response to his own dysfunctional relationship with food, and sugary treats in particular. His 2014 exhibition “Wotsit All About” featured a series of figures, garishly adorned in layers of butter cream, candy, cake and chocolate topped ice-cream cones. He posed for the series himself, alongside family members and friends. The end result is a deliciously disturbing one, each photograph a decadent depiction of over indulgence.
His subsequent work features prominent cultural figures, such as Donald Trump constructed out of pig snouts, croissants, jam and even sheep’s eyeballs.
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Thomas Eikrem: publisher of Filmrage, an exploitation film journal established in 1990; director of "Le Accelerator," a feature length experimental crime movie that’s hitting cinemas, galleries, and clubs [by the tail-end of 2017]; as well as [maker of] more than 50 short films and music videos!
Whose work you feel best embodies the concept of food as art and art as food?
The film Le Grande Bouffe (1973) directed by Marco Ferreri (1928 – 1997) immediately springs to mind.
Could the use of mediums, such as food, have the ability to open up a scene for a new audience? Sure, I’m for anything that gets people out of their homes and into the cinemas, galleries, and other venues. These days, people tend to take art, music, films and so on for granted. Especially since they are so accessible on the Internet. If we have to get cooking, let's get cooking. After all, without food you are dead. But then again I would say the same about art. How do you feel about the current “foodie” movement? I’ve never really thought about it. I began enjoying food rather late in life. For a long time it was a necessity and not a priority. That said, there is passion in the foodie movement – and I believe passion goes a long way. First piece of art you bought and why?
A painting by my friend Kim Hiorthoy – [some] 25 years ago. I’d just sold a movie and had money to spend for the first time in my life. Since then, I decided to always spend 20% of my income either on buying or making art.