Food art has had a long-standing tradition all over the world. Artists are showcasing their food art in novel ways — from fridge magnets to badges to paintings and prints. Miniature food art made of clay, canvas paintings, and sketches are some ways modern artists are interpreting their love for food.
American pop artist Andy Warhol was inspired by every day, common, and popular food brands, like McDonald’s fries, Campbell soup cans, hot dogs and donuts. Warhol’s paintings were often a satirical commentary on the world as he saw it. Other artists such as the US’s Brian Nash, Canada’s Rick Rove, and France’s Agnès Lefèvre have also shown foods that have become synonymous with their home countries be it macarons, gummy bears, diner coffee, or Doritos.
In India too, the food art movement has grown as artists showcase their love for street food, sometimes on canvas, and as collectible souvenirs for home decor. Fridge magnets, postcards, enamel pins and coffee mugs, such products bear popular motifs such as chai and other much-loved food items.
Food art is an art which portrays food, drinks and more in interesting displays for viewers, and sometimes offers social critique or commentary on different subjects — such as junk food, racism, and political activism. Everyday objects are made more dramatic. They inspire hunger in viewers as they depict people’s favourite comfort foods. In India, artists have explored people’s love for snacks like vada-pav, pav-bhaji and pani puri. Today food art is 2D and 3D and social media is helping showcase this art, through Facebook and Instagram.
These platforms also serve as marketing and sales points for the art. Design portal RU & Chai, founded by Pune-based artist couple Rucha and Chaitanya Limaye has several products, such as food paintings on sale. They work in both traditional and digital media and their collections try to strike a chord with people. “We focus primarily on the texture and colour of our paintings because we want our works to look as real as possible, to speak to the foodie in people. We want to make the viewer feel satiated by simply viewing the works. In the case of food paintings, we first style the food plate, be it vada-pav, jalebi or samosa-chai, and then start to paint, like how still-life is done. We first started out paint landscapes, but later started to paint food in 2021. Our first painting being a vada-pav painting. We started posting our creations on Instagram and they started to become popular. We want to appeal to the foodie in people. Everyone is a foodie today, and we are too, and we enjoy expressing this love through our works.”
Miniature food art is another kind of food art and artists like Chennai-based Shilpa Mitha offer up some innovative miniature food art, for example fridge magnets. A sound engineer turned miniature food artist, Mitha works mainly using clay, as she thinks “it lends itself to much better detailing.”
She started out on the journey, launching a brand called Sueno Souvenir, in 2011, being inspired by a Navtratri tradition. “Navratri’s tradition of keeping dolls in the house inspired me on the journey. Food is something everyone relates to and my products can be used personally or for gifting. Back in 2011, I wanted to create a pair of burger earrings and my mother taught me the basics of clay modelling then. That’s how I started out. My aim is to make my miniature creations look more and more realistic by focussing on the details like the texture, proportion, and colour of the products.”
Mitha’s products depict biryani, curd-rice, benne dosa, croissant and other favourites, and have found customers among avid food lovers beyond Chennai.
Hamburger installations, carved food, food installations at weddings and other events, all these are examples of food art. The latte art created by your local barista is also an example of the art. Such art is a way for creators to make statements, and make a display interesting. They also signify consumerism, abundance and excess in some cases. There could not be a better time for food art today, as social media offers artists an opportunity to showcase their works, inspiring them to keep attempting new things with food. Tricolour biryani made for Republic day, chocolate diyas made on the occasion of Diwali, Diwali food art where diya and lantern designs are created on plates using different ingredients, these are some examples of food artistry today. Today, the possibilities of creating food art are limitless, and hashtags and other digital marketing tools help push the art, helping creators find their audiences.