Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Craig Stephens: Honey and Cream


Before everything else, this painting demonstrates how a liquid can capture and preserve light. The role of the jar, both in the case of being an art object, and a container of a culinary ingredient, is similar: it conserves the contents (light and honey respectively) and, it mixes them, making the viscid substance appealing to the eye, as well as to the taste. In a way, the jar becomes the epicenter of an active process, artistic for all our purposes. Its placid appearance is misleading, and the lid comes to support that hypothesis: the red color implies on the representational tension occurring down and inside; the apple segment and the creamer's nose, both filtered by the said mix, only add oil to the fire. There is a sense of impending implosion, all the fumes being channeled to the red lid, a valve, which becomes the pictorial counterpoint of this piece.

But this is a three-way composition: the creamer further stabilizes it, providing a soothing outlet. Its neutral color, the color of all colors, becomes the white flag that suppresses the heat, in compositional, as well as in physical-optical terms. We do no see the cream, but the promise of it adds to the sense of balance. Appropriately, it is not the milk that gets spilled here: we can see how the golden light travels further to invade the shadow and become a part of it. A rare battle is without losses; the canvas becomes the land of milk and honey, and I should know...

The combination of two seemingly separate spheres of perception, the taste and the vision, is not incidental. It is well known that presentation is a key component in gastronomy; arranging a serving to appear appetizing demands an artistry immensely valued by connoisseurs. After the aroma, composition and color play the next in importance part in achieving a mouth-watering result. Both visual constituents, much like in painting, they target the aesthetic sense of the consumer. Consequently, this particular choice of subject matter, and its treatment, could be seen as a nod to the restaurant industry and the art of cooking. You know what -- and the art of eating, too.

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