Food & Art
I’ve been spending a lot of time this week contemplating Renaissance food for an upcoming feature article I’m writing for The Canberra Times. It’s to coincide with the opening of an unprecedented show at the National Gallery of Australia – the Italian Renaissance. It’s quite a big thing, these 500 year old paintings making their way to the faraway and ancient land of Australia, and it means I’m getting stuck into two of my favourite topics: food and art.
Artists have long tried to capture the beauty of the perfection and imperfection of nature, whether a Roman fresco, a 16th century still life painting or a black and white Edward Weston photograph. With colour and form, the uniqueness of each piece of fruit or a vegetable becomes an artwork in itself. And of course, as the old saying goes, we eat with our eyes. We have a thing for the aesthetically pleasing.
In fact, food photography itself is based on the same principals that any artist, be it a painter or a sculptor, knows and uses. Colour, shadows and shape all play a part in the overall mood of the work. The composition – the golden rule of threes, the ancient rule that our eyes just happen to find thirds more attractive that something central – is just as important for the composition of a plate of food.
I thought about this even more while wandering my new neighbourhood in Melbourne and stumbling across St Dot’s. The sign out the front of the shop notes that it’s not a gallery – it’s a fruit shop.
There is something very reminiscent of an art installation about it: One central table laden with beautiful fruit and vegetables in a white-washed room. The beautiful display of locally sourced produce, carefully stacked in vintage bowls or baskets and little notes describing where they come from, what they go with or how to cook them with witty recipes like “Actually interesting pumpkin + chickpea soup” or “Naughty dressing for good greens” make it an entirely inspirational visit.
Jazz music hums in the background and I happily browse over the table’s offerings, eyes gliding from one fruit to the next much like the way you would study an artwork. It’s not unlike looking at a Caravaggio still life fruit. Or Ricky Swallow’s table of carved seafood. There’s no doubt about it, these humble groceries are as pretty as a picture.
234 High St
Northcote VIC 3070
Open weekdays 9-7, weekends 10-6, closed Tues.