While still life art can encompass any set or collection of inanimate objects, I tend to associate the genre with 17th and 18th century paintings depicting tables or benches loaded with an abundance of foodstuffs. These paintings offer fascinating social history snapshots; being both literal depictions of the types of food available (if only to the rich), and loaded with symbolic allusions to gluttony, intemperance and the transience of luxury.
Food production and consumption exists in a social and economic context. Scarcity, quality, nutrition, price — these are all part of a food narrative that can be explored in art.
In New Zealand, as in much of the world, the prevailing narrative is one of over-abundance. Or at least an over-abundance of calories — mainly derived from highly processed, readily available “convenience” foods. In his highly influential book In Defence of Food, Michael Pollan calls these “edible food-like substances”.
The Daily Post Photo Challenge asked this week for life imitating art. So I give you a still life from 2016, with all the symbolism and allegory of the genre. I also give you this, again from Michael Pollan:
“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. ”
― Michael Pollan