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Art + Food: Beyond The Still Life

By Sharne Wolff

If, as the Spanish say, “the belly rules the mind” then visitors to Art + Food: Beyond the Still Life might want to keep a firm hand on their wallets. Curator Megan Fizell has brought together a group of artists with disparate practices in sculpture, collage, installation, photography, video and more to examine new ideas of depicting food in contemporary art.

Sarah Field, whose practice often considers the concept of what we she terms ‘disgust’ has constructed her ‘Let them eat cake’ sculptural piece using, amongst other things, hair – a common trademark in her work but not the kind of ingredient we might be used to seeing in a work of art with that title. Meanwhile, Ken and Julia Yonetani’s ‘Urn of Grapes’ is a sculpture constructed entirely from groundwater salt deposits from the Murray River. While drawing on the rich history of still life symbolism and religious iconography, the piece makes timely comment on the health of Australia’s dying river systems and environmental degradation. Photographer Robyn Stacey also delves into the history of still life painting with ‘9pm Elizabeth Bay House’ where the artist has drawn on the collections of NSW Historic Houses to recreate the essence of life in the 19th century.

Strange and icky, Elizabeth Willing’s ‘Stew’ collage examines our growing anxiety and self-consciousness about what we eat. Her collage calls to my mind the less popular sections of the home science teachers’ high school bible of the 70s, the Commonsense Cook Book, to make for a piece which resembles a ‘revolting spew-like blob’. Will Coles’ ‘First World Food (burgers)’ made in coloured resin and topped with skull and cross bones are reminiscent of Morgan Spurlock’s documentary film Super Size Me with its emphasis on consumerism, obesity and psychological addiction. For a 30-day period Spurlock ate only food purchased at McDonalds and, according to Wikipedia, “gained 11.1 kg, a 13 per cent body mass increase, a cholesterol level of 230, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation in his liver.” Would you still like fries with that?

Other artists in the exhibition include Senden Blackwood and Laura Mathias, Maz Dixon, Michael Edwards, Stuart Elliot, James Guppy, Al Munro, Will Nolan, Vin Ryan, Sue Saxon and Jane Becker, Susanna Strati, Janet Tavener, Christine Turner, Claire Anna Watson and Ken and Julia Yonetani.

2 to 20 October 2012

Brenda May Gallery, Waterloo

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