If music has been accepted for centuries to be the food of love, can food nourish art? Obviously artists, like all of us, need food to drive the engine of the human body. But can food also provide the inspiration for art itself?
In the earlier days of art, when it was paid for by rich patrons and served as a way to show their piety (in the hope it would buy their ticket to heaven), art covered religious themes and so the only appearance of food would have been in that context. The forbidden fruit, the loaves and fishes and the Last Supper would have been the possible food-related subject matters. In other words, the food played second fiddle to the moral message of the painting.
Later, secular themes became more common, as those who could pay to commission or buy art were willing to pay for other works. This meant that anything which inspired an artist could become the subject of a work, including food. Still life paintings depicting bowls of fruit and other foods were a particular part of the golden age of Dutch painting, some of the works being so realistic you almost want to grab an apple, wipe off the lovingly rendered drops of condensation on it and tuck in! As you move through art history to the bizarre allegorical paintings of Arcimboldo, the rural agricultural paintings of the great landscape painters, we get to the art which seems to capture my imagination; the Impressionists and ‘Modern’ art movements.
Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters is a dark vision of simple peasants living a simple life and eating potatoes; the simplest of foods. Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe uses food as an excuse for his audacious vision of a picnic; two fully clothed men out in a park with two women, one in paddling in her underwear and another completely nude. Dali’s Autumnal Cannabalism is a meditation on love, food and appetite, begging the question of whether these appetites can be sated without self-destruction or destroying each other. Then of course we get to Warhol reclaiming food commodities in his Factory, with the famous line of Campbell’s soup can paintings (the relevance of which will become clear later!).
All of this brings me to a fascinating and playful exhibition at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery at 28 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London (W1T 2NA). Artist and former fashion designer Kate Jenkins (she has designed for Marc Jacobs, Missoni, Sonia Rykiel and Donna Karan) is currently displaying her latest crocheted food works in an exhibition entitled Kate’s Crocheted Market. Extended until 1st October 2011, this is a fun set of works whose skill should not be underestimated. If you’ve ever tried crochet, you will know what I mean!
Kate Jenkins has been working on these artworks for the last year, which means she must be very hard-working indeed; there are 70 exhibited works on display. She has been crocheting art work for years, having learnt the skill as a child. Her first food related exhibition, Comfort Food, was exhibited in 2007. The food she has captured varies from commercial food products to iconic dishes. I was struck by the humour of them which is energetic, nostalgic and joyful. Childhood sweets are rendered in careful detail, the viewer wanting to unwrap and eat them immediately. Fishes are covered in glittering sequin scales. Piggy faced sausages smile, begging to be made up into a delicious sausage butty. Cheeky moustachioed French Fries and Mexican Chilis put a smile on your face.
Catch this exhibition whilst you still can, here are a few of the highlights....
|Pork Pie, 2010|
|Large Sardine Tin, 2011|
|Wool’s Sewsages, 2011|
|Woolpride Wool Self Knitting, 2011|
|French Fries, 2011|
|Pot Needle, 2011|
|Campbells Soup, 2011|