Caro de Waal’s Food Art

INTERVIEWED BY Malibongwe Tyilo IMAGES Jan Ras

Food meets art and design in a contemporary take on the regular canapé.

For the 2nd birthday of The New Church Museum in Cape Town, Caro de Waal of Eat Design portrayed famous artistic movements through the plating of food for the event. VISI spoke to her about what bringing a concept like this to life entails.

How did the project come about?

This has been a dream project and came about from a simple introduction from Aletta Lindvelt. I met with Kirsty Cockerill (Director of The New Church Museum) and from the moment I walked into that beautiful space, it was the most wonderful, organic and creative process. Kirsty and I saw the same vision and she had the courage to let me run with it and go a bit crazy.

Has putting the exhibition together affected your own views when it comes to abstract visual art?

Absolutely. The works that I came to understand and really enjoy have elevated my opinion of contemporary art as a whole. The contemporary, especially abstract art, can in my opinion hold a certain intimidating quality – as one (someone who isn’t an expert) can look at something and really not understand it at all. But after some history and explanations of the specific artist, their processes, mediums or even just the pure beauty of colour, I felt more at ease and able to go further with it.

Please share with us your process, as you went about translating the artworks into food art installations.

I spent time in the space and met with Marilyn Martin, the curator of the magnificent collection. I selected works that spoke to me and then dove deeper into their meaning and histories with her, which in some cases changed the outcome altogether and in others just solidified what I felt. In essence, I chose the pieces that were tangible to me, that fired my senses, that I felt I could taste and smell.

I then went through a kind of dreamlike process, which is a little romantic, but at the same time rather simple. I brainstorm the shit out of it. But I do it when I’m running, showering, sleeping (I have luckily always been able to remember my dreams, which is really cool). I drench my life in it. I start at the simplest interpretation that I feel and build from there.

For example, the Penny Siopis took my breath away – the mass of purple and pink and pure earth just spoke to me. I thought amethysts, pink salt, crystals, beetroot, figs, pomegranates and then something earthy like Parmesan and cured ham. And so it came to be. But it had to be pure and beautiful with no corners cut.

Another example is that of the Preller, which to me looks like dripping caramel on a background of dark chocolate. I literally wanted people to taste that caramel, the golden pureness of it in all forms like honeycomb, toffee, spun sugar and fudge. I felt I needed to create my own canvas of chocolate and edible gold. I linked it all at the end just before the guests arrived with the gilt (which the work is famous for) and in my world, gilt is liquid caramel. I drizzled hot caramel that connected the works with the tangible, edible things. One could eat it all.

I throw a lot of ideas away, but hopefully the ones I keep are the right ones. I go with the ones that feel right in my heart. I hear myself saying that and it sounds bloody cheesy but honestly, if it doesn’t feel right in my heart, I get rid of it.

Would you say the purpose was to interpret the work into food art installations, or to deconstruct the paintings for the audience through food, or something else all together?

The purpose was to create delight for the viewer and connect them to the work through the experience of the food installation, to have some fun and create some whimsy and interest, to hopefully ask the guest to ‘taste the painting’ and endeavour to view art in a different way, and to add an experiential aspect. The main objective of my work with Eat Design is to exhilarate and connect the senses and create multi-dimensional experiences.

I don’t see myself as any sort of expert in art and I wouldn’t feel comfortable to think that I could deconstruct or translate any of the outstanding works on exhibition there. The best outcome for me would be that the viewer enjoyed and connected to the art with the added interest of the food installations.

Find out more about these edible installations in the new issue of VISI (VISI 77), on sale from Monday 30 March 2015.