Broccoli Trees

investigates artists creating artwork solely in the medium of food

Next time you are creating a marvellous dish of pesto pasta, stop and think about how it looks on the plate. Could it possibly become a lock of hair, a branch of a tree or a post in a fence? I for one look at a plate of pasta and see nothing special – merely thinking of what is about to be consumed. However, this could not be said for most of the population of Italy for example, who pride themselves on creating pasta that is almost an experience in itself; this is also the case for artist Carl Warner.

I came across Warner whilst doing research on different and experimental forms of art. His website labels him a photographer, yet his work renders him somewhere between architect and Michelin chef. Warner spends time putting together “Foodscapes”, created in his London studio on a large tabletop. His art form involves forging beautiful landscapes and pictures from the medium that is most appealing to us all, food, then photographing it in layers in order to create a piece that has both depth and intricacy.

In its most robust form, his art undoubtedly holds a rather short shelf life, as I am sure that art galleries would not appreciate 100 pieces of salami layered with fish and carrots being left out for months on end. Therefore it is his photographs that remain intact for the world to see. These photographs have even been commissioned into a book which is available for purchase and perusal.

The realisation that the scene is in fact made of food brings a smile to the viewer: that is the best part

Warner recognises a key element in his creation of this kind of art. He says “it is the realisation that the scene is in fact made of food which brings a smile to the viewer; that is the best part”. His work is first and foremost about bringing amusement to people – a concept that flows through every avenue of the pieces – from spending hours choosing the correctly shaped cucumber in the supermarket, to creating seas made of fish. Food is generally seen and accepted as a source of endorphins; therefore, combined with something that is both amusing and artistic, it seems – excuse the pun – to be a recipe for success.

Major participants in the “food-art” movement are the chocolatiers: veritable artisans who can create work that is of such detail and beauty that their work is now part of a multi-million-dollar business. In the world’s largest chocolate house, Fassbender & Rausche of Berlin, scale models of German monuments made entirely of chocolate stand tall, including Brandenburg gate. These models generate almost as many visitors as the sites themselves. Food art is an effective advertising campaign – think of the incredibly successful 2007 Skoda “cake-car” advert; to appeal simultaneously to the eyes, imagination and the stomach often proves very lucrative.

This idea of food as art is undoubtedly the underlying ethos for all top restaurants, for an exciting and stimulating culinary experience is often one that is aesthetic as well as mouth-watering. Manipulating food is a medium that is largely available to all, and can serve as an introduction to the art world – who out of us has not carved a pumpkin on Halloween, or arranged the food on our plate at dinner to look like a smiling face? As artists get more inventive, and we get more restless, what is interesting is how the way we look at food has altered. Originally we tried hard in restaurants and at dinner parties to make our food look exactly like a particular picture or painting – now we try our best to make our pictures look like food.

Food aided by art is certainly evolving; I can only wonder how long it will be before we see a carpet of chocolate covered raisons adorning the exhibition area in the Tate modern.