Temptation
Sour
French Toast
Radish Cake
Persimmons
Reunion
Everyday Table IX
Everyday Table I
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Still-life paintings tap into our craving for comfort foods

Enjoying food is an experience shared by all. Not only is it an integral part of our lives, but there is also a long tradition of food as a subject for artistic creations.

Food art

The best art incorporates shared community experiences, as do the best meals. With nuanced observations, six artists from different generations and backgrounds immortalise the food they love in an exhibition at Artspace K.

Still-life of peaches and pears

Ouyang Guo-Jian oil paintings have a touch of fantasy and poetry with room for the viewer’s imagination. For instance, the foreground of Temptation consists of inviting peaches and pears, but far in the background, sailboats on an open ocean are threatened by storm clouds.   

Living Memory series

Aries Wu Chun Yin took on the challenging task of painting the Living Memory oil paintings series on wood, providing a traditional element to his depiction of well-worn kitchenware from the 1990s. Wu’s nostalgic feeling for simple food preparation rituals speaks volumes about the love a cook has for family. His paintings provoke long-forgotten family rituals that brought people together. Tools in every Chinese kitchen are easily overlooked, but with time take on new meaning. By observing the trivial, by finding trace memories of ordinary daily life, Wu finds and immortalises beauty often overlooked. 

Cha Chaan Teng food art

Self-trained artist and popular Instagrammer, Steven Tang works in the unusual medium of coloured pencils. There is a dissonance looking at his work. How can one draw shiny reflections with a pencil? It turns out he uses special pencils, but that does not make his Instagram time-lapses creating these works any less hypnotising. When asked why his drawings are better than photos, he responded that although they are realistic, he does emphasise and de-emphasise elements to better communicate feelings about the food. His compositions tap into the social media trend of photographing common foods found in cha chaan tengs (tea restaurants serving eclectic and affordable foods).

Sausage Claypot Rice

Li Cheng-Guei’s husband opened a restaurant in Taiwan a few years ago. With so many different delicious dishes, she decided to lovingly capture what he cooked in the medium of colour marker pens on paper. Authentic dishes like Dongpo Pork, Sausage Claypot and Rice Dumpling look so real you can easily imagine the aroma and flavours in your mouth. A couple of plates even incorporate plastic wrap. Never far from tradition, each food represents Chinese food culture and values, often carrying the meaning of blessing.

Persimmons

Would you hang a painting of Persimmons still in the plastic bag on your wall? Liang Chin-chai would and in so doing pushes against the fringes of acceptable art. Liang draws inspiration from daily life and memories that reflect simplicity and authenticity. Using perfected oil painting skills, he elevates everyday food and fruit items into timeless artworks. His art reveals an astute observational talent; he sees objects in a way others ignore and in so doing reveals a beauty previously unknown.

Three pears on a table

Huang Kuen-Po is also exploring non-traditional subjects, including a half-eaten watermelon (Everyday Table IX) or three pears still under plastic with a price label (Everyday Table I). Huang has also been classically trained in western oil painting. Like a photograph, his paintings capture the perfect moment for consuming fruit or a snack. But unlike photographs, these paintings carry gravitas and emphasis provided by a painter’s eye for light, shadow, brightness and darkness, all but impossible with a digital or even a printed image. Huang’s art evokes much-loved memories of food, and so is also a reminder of the physical and emotional beauty in everyday life.

Realism is a challenging art form to achieve (how do you paint clear plastic film?), yet these six accomplished artists with masterful techniques and nuanced observations have managed to tap into our reverence for food and its ability to spark joyful memories. It is this ability to trigger emotions of common shared experiences that elevate these artworks to pride of place on any wall. 

Text Martin Wray / Photos Martin Wray and Artspace K