Photographers influenced by still life paintings often take certain elements of these paintings and introduce them into their own work. This is exactly what Berlin-based photographer Karsten Wegener has done….with sausages! Rather than exactly imitate the artworks with sausages in place of the true subject matter, Wegener has either connected sausages to the artwork by replicating the appearance of the objects or has experimented with a combination of different meats, the packaging or a play on the name of a dish. I recently interviewed him for Feature Shoot and you can see the article here…
Following on from my previous post a few weeks ago, another example painting from the Pop Art movement and how it highlighted mass consumption and consumerism is ‘Food landscape’, painted by Erro in 1964. His painting focuses on repetition and obsessive crowding of foodstuffs. It represents the supermarket consumer society and how food is not imperfect or naturally beautiful anymore but part of a standardized, industrial production process. (Malaguzzi, S. (2008) p59) The way the food is crowded together mirrors the display of goods in a supermarket.
When looking at food as a subject in photography, it’s interesting to consider that still life painters in the 20th century continued to paint food objects, despite photography becoming more popular as a creative medium. In particular, Paul Cezanne focussed his attention on the artistic possibilities in the still life genre.
A switch from realist paintings, the subject of the painting did not necessarily have to resemble anything that actually existed. The general approach to still life painting of the time “tried to probe the potential of the painting medium by experimenting with form and colour, flattening three-dimensional perspective and simplifying composition” (Malaguzzi, S. 2008, p57) Later in the 20th century, food in still life paintings was depicted as a symbol of consumer society. “The industrialized production of food and its display in supermarkets are seen as tangible signs of the violence of capitalism.” (Malaguzzi, S. 2008, p57) Rather than focus on the ingredients like previous still life paintings, packaging and brand labels featured heavily. In particular, the Pop art movement in the 1960s in the United States “denounced the excesses of consumerism, and ironically, celebrated industrially produced food as a primary expression of mass goods whose consumption is obsessively encouraged by advertising.” (Malaguzzi, S. (2008) p57) This can be seen in the well-known work of Andy Warhol, in his depiction of Campbell’s soup cans.