When it comes to art, its mediums can be as abstract as its content at times with its ability to take on countless forms from a simple painting to a human installation. The use of food in art then is as natural as the presence of a brushstroke in a painting.
The past decade has seen one London-based artist, Carl Warner, popularise the term 'foodscapes' by creating landscapes or scenes out of food and then capturing it in photos imbued with an eerie sense of realism.
Warner credits his work as a progression of an idea by Giuseppe Arcimboldo who painted portraits of people made out of food in the 16th century.
caught up with the British artist after his recent collaboration with Hotels.com on their Tasty Travels project which brought the world’s top foodie destinations to life by using food iconic to each listed country.
Looks good enough to eat
A man of many hats – director, photographer, artist, and writer – Warner's interest in foodscaping sprouted fifteen years into his career as a photographer.
"I always wanted to find something original, something that no-one had done before. My first foodscape was a scene made from mushrooms and was inspired during a walk in a local food market," he said.
"I imagined the mushrooms were some kind of parasol tree on an alien planet. I took them back to the studio and photographed them to create this imaginary world. After that, the ideas kept coming and I continued to create the body of work I have today," he added.
The range of colours, shapes and textures that you find in food are the elements that drew him in with Warner describing it as "paint on a palette".
Considering the end result, it comes as no surprise that the process of piecing it together is a lengthy one.
"Each foodscape is hand built in my studio. We first sketch out the composition, which uses very conventional landscapes using classic compositional techniques which trick the viewer into thinking it is a real scene at first glance," said Warner.
Next comes the shopping where Warner and his team head to the grocery store and food markets to source produce authentic to the country his foodscape is paying homage to. His team of three – a model maker, a food stylist and a retoucher – then start to build the set which takes anywhere from a day to three or four depending on the size and scale.
"In the Tokyo scene for Tasty Travels, I made sure I used Japanese food and researched with Japanese suppliers," explained the artist.
"For its dining room, I used seaweed as the carpet and created seat cushions from maki roll sushi. The table pays tribute to one of the city’s most popular meals, sushi, with a range of fresh salmon and tuna sushi displayed. I’m particularly excited about the view beyond as well - the Japanese ‘Zen’ garden is made of a mix of fresh ginger rocks and shiitake mushrooms and the pagoda is built from tofu and seaweed. Fujisan is made from Nori seaweed and jasmine rice for the snow cap.
"For Paris, I built the famed Eiffel Tower from delicious chocolate and the famous blue-grey walls of Parisian buildings were constructed from a mix of blue and hard cheeses. I also made sure I featured the beloved macaron within the image.
"For Rome, I constructed an iconic, cobbled back-street using Italian favourites such as Parmesan for the building walls, café windows from an olive oil bottle, a scooter of red peppers and a tomato helmet. And what’s an Italian work of art without pasta? I used this iconic spaghetti noodle for things like the table and chair, the wheels and the iconic Pantheon. There are some other very recognisable Italian delicacies in there for you to pick out too.
"In order to capture the ingredients before they wilt under the studio lights, each complete image is compiled from separate photos digitally spliced together - from foreground to background. We then bring the images together in post-production and finalise the foodscape images," he added.
Fruits of labour
"I have a great love of food and I enjoy eating like most people. Food is a great source of inspiration for me because it is an organic material that has a similarity to the larger aspects of the natural world. And people can relate to food easily and so they recognise the cleverness of what I do and appreciate the art and the craft involved in order to create this kind of imagery," said Warner.
With this kind of passion and the ingenuity behind his art, once Warner's foodscapes started hitting the Internet, they eventually went viral, but the artist remains humble in his work.
"It’s been a steady journey, which I am still in awe of every day. It is great to be able to share my love of photography with the world and see people smile, particularly when they realise what the images actually are and hopefully, in turn, look to inspire them to create wonderful things.
"Food is the medium here though and my entire team and I are very respectful of what we’re working with. We plan each work of art carefully to minimise waste from the outset and any leftover food that is suitable for consumption is shared among places like local food banks, homeless shelters and City Harvest," he added.
The world is his oyster
Warner is also a writer who recently completed his second book, A World of Food, targeted at children and featuring poetry written by him. He is also working on a new exhibit of work around the world for audiences to enjoy the ‘pleasant deception’ of his imagery and the escape to gastronomic paradise.
His work though is not just limited to foodscapes.
"I’ve captured a cityscape made from car parts and even desserts made from photography of the human body. I also make landscapes from clothes and cities from office supplies and ironmongery," said Warner.
"I’m lucky to be able to do something I love every single day, but I do particularly like working with food as there is so much choice in terms of texture, colour and form – plus it always smells and tastes so good!"
To view more of his work, visit carlwarner.com