Flora of Indonesia

Edible landscapes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 May, 2009, 12:00am


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Next time you're told not to play with the vegetables on your plate, think of Carl Warner - for both inspiration and as an alibi.

The London-based photographer specialises in creating art from food.

His solo photography exhibition 'Foodscape' - currently on at Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong - showcases the artist's fantasy world, in which bread is rock, broccoli is lush forests and purple cabbage leaves form a stormy sea.

Inspired by fantasy artists like Roger Dean and films such as The Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Warner's yummy pictures usually start out as classical landscape compositions. They are then supplemented by visits to food markets and grocery stores.

'We [he and his team] select only the best looking and freshest ingredients we can source so that everything looks at its best,' he says.

The clever mimicking of landscapes is a product of Warner's unique gift of seeing the visual potential of food, his photography skills, and the hard work of his team of model makers and food stylists.

To create a natural feel, Warner says, warm lighting is often used to bring out the colours, texture and freshness. But the warm lighting also dries the 'ingredients', leaving the team less time to create the landscape before the greens discolour and wilt.

'There is always a lot of food left over that is shared with the team,' says the photographer, adding that food used on the sets has been tainted with glue and cannot be eaten.

It usually takes the team two to three days to build and shoot all the scenes layered in the pictures and a few days more to retouch the images.

The choice of 'ingredients' for Warner's art depends on the landscape, he says.

'If it is Italian, then I use Italian foods and ingredients, and if it is Chinese, I go to Chinatown and find things to work with there.'

If he was creating a foodscape of Hong Kong, he says, he would opt for a back street with tables set outdoors, and with stainless steel cutlery forming the skyscraper skyline.

'For the neon signs, I might put tiny light bulbs in chillies. I might try to use some spiky durians [which he saw for the first time in Hong Kong], but I heard they smell like sweat,' he says.

People who see his work for the first time are usually surprised to learn it is actually made of food, but he says, the idea has been picked up by nutritionists, restaurants and hospitals to promote healthy eating.

While Warner admits his work may not be a cure for picky eaters, he says he at least hopes it can bring some joy.

'It's a deception and when people realise what the real ingredients are it makes them smile,' he says. 'For me that's the best part.'

'Foodscape' runs until May 17