Wednesday 24 February 2021

Food in Art: An Exploration

 In my project progress post, I stated that the next image that I was working on was about food and the end times.  Therefore in this piece of research, I will discuss food in art to look at how I might represent this in my own work. 

The key points I would like to explore for my own work are:

  • How do other artists depict food/eating in their work?
  • What can I learn from this and how will it help to inform my own work? 
  • Specifically, I would like to look at the composition. light and framing.
  • I also want to explore the context of these works as my own will be eating in isolation in the time of Covid 

To begin I will discuss the above image of The Potato Eaters as an example of this kind of depiction in art. Food in earlier art was often depicted in still life form on its own but by 19th century painters had begun to show people socialising around food such as the image above. Van Gogh painted this image to show solidarity with the poor and working people. 'He found in their common meal the occasion in which their humanity and moral beauty are strikingly revealed; they appear then as a close community, based upon work and the sharing of the fruits of work. The table is their altar and the food a sacrament for each one who has labored.' (Vincent Van Gogh 2009-2021) In this image, we can see the whole room, which demonstrates the poverty that they live in, the muted colours and simple meal though with the one light shining upon the table suggest intimacy and importance to the meal.  The faces of the subjects show happiness even in dire circumstances.  Meals together can create this kind of feeling sharing food has always been a way of connecting to our fellow travellers in life and Van Gogh really gets this feeling across to the viewer, looking in on this ordinary yet important meal.  

Pieter Bruegel (the elder) was a member of four generations of Netherlandish artists, his work often depicted the common people and how they lived in new and bold ways which humanised his subjects. 'In order to get source material for his paintings, it's alleged that Northern Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel disguised himself in peasant garb to sneak into events like the one above. (One of the earliest known wedding crashers, it seems.)' (First We Feast: 7th April 2015) Again he went against the tide of painters (particularly the Italian renaissance) to paint the ordinary man rather than people in high society.  This particular painting of a wedding shows the simple food of soup and porridge being served with wine. Again this simple meal shows the camaraderie of the working class and togetherness through eating together.  

In my own work I will be depicting something somewhat different in that times have changed enormously particularly at present and more and more people eat alone for a lonely meal.  In 2017 there were 7.7 million people in the UK living alone this is predicted to rise to 10.7 million by 2039 (The Office for National Statistics: 4th April 2019) With the pandemic obviously more people have had to isolate and therefore the rise in loneliness at this time has increased dramatically. The 'lockdown lonely have been reported 'From 3 April to 3 May 2020 30.9% of those asked said their well-being had been affected through feeling lonely in the past seven days, around 7.4 million people across Great Britain. We refer to this group as “lockdown lonely”. If we adjusted this to be representative of the entire Great British population this would be equivalent to 14.3%.' (Office for National Statistics (Office for National Statistics: 8th June 2020)

The Expressionists did not often depict themselves eating and the images of war are often horror and starvation so here I will share the Blind man's meal by Picasso in his Blue Period (1901-1904).  Picasso painted the disaffected, the blind, beggers and women in prison at this time. As can be seen here the blind man eats a simple meal of bread and water, his eyes downcast, the blue colours emphasising the sadness of this meal, bare walls and no tastes to enjoy. 

The Ascetic is very similar and he chooses to live this simple life and equally eats this simple meal alone looking into nothingness and not relishing anything of taste.  These images both struck me as the kind of image I would like to make in term of composition, pose and light.  I would like to capture this sense of loss and loneliness in the solitary meal.  This will be my next image that I will produce.  


Martinique E. (9th December 2019) Widewalls: Food in Art History: [Online] Available from: (Accessed 24/02/21)

Vincent Van Gogh (2009-2021) The Potato Eaters [Online Available from (Accessed 24/02/21)

First We Feast (7th April 2015) Iconic Food Paintings [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Wiesse J. (October 2002) Met Museum: Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525–1569) [Online]  Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Office for National Statistics (4th April 2019) The Cost of Living Alone [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Office for National Statistics (4th April 2019) Coronavirus and loneliness, Great Britain: 3 April to 3 May 2020 [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Pablo Picasso (2021) Pablo Picasso: Blue Period [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Artsology (2021) Famous Meals in Art [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Feedback Action Plan for End Times Project

I have created a Visme to show my action plan from feedback.  This can be viewed here.  Please see my Visme below this will show you the direction and actions I will take with my project work.

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Project Progress: The End Times

 As can be seen from my previous posts I have been working on the concept of end times for photographs and paintings.  So far I have completed research on expressionism, the end times and I have begun on more specific research for the pictures I have planned such as the maniacal laughter and the 'lustmord' idea from Otto Dix. These test shots have shown that I still need more work on the maniacal laughter and I was reminded of the image by Jeff Wall 'Dead Troops Talk' (1992) 

The depicted scene is clearly fiction: it shows us dead soldiers who seem to talk and joke with one another. This was a staged image that was created in a studio with the soldiers being photographed separately and then put together through digital montage. For that reason, Susan Sontag referred to this image as the' opposite of a document'  in 2012, his work Dead Troops Talk fetched $3,666,500 at Christie’s, New York, making it the third most expensive photograph ever sold at auction.

This black humour is what I wanted to capture in the images, it is almost hysterical, on the brink of death laughter that I want to show.  This has been quite a challenge to achieve in photos and in drawing - so I will keep working on this.

For the other images I am still deciding on the content but I may use food as the one thing we now do is eat at home always so something surrounding these solitary meals.  Also, something to do with sleep as now we live in a state of anxiety sleep is most definitely disturbing. 

I may consider the whole project as about disturbance and this is what I might call the end collection. 


Sontag S. (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others, Penguin Books Ltd. London

CBS News (08/05/2012) Jeff Wall Photograph sells for a record 3.6 million [Online] Available from:
(Accessed 17/02/21)

Collective Work

 In class today we worked on a collective piece. We all had to use the following description to make an image: 

'You can see a face it is a man's face, grizzly and marked, his mouth is but a black slit and his hair a nest of dirty matted strands, his eyes are emerald green, piercing and shining, looking right at you, seeing into you…’ 

This is my image ...

I will add the collective work when it is complete!

Please find collective work from the class here: 

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Maniacal Laughing: Test

 I was discussing the laughter in previous posts now I wanted to test it out so I could work out how this would look.  I used my Olympus Stylus SH-2 again with the film grain filter as I still want these to look gritty.  These are just some quick test shots. Just one contact sheet 

Here are a couple of the ones I might try to use for studies for a painting.

Settings: F3, 1/20 ISO 800 FL4mm

I blackened my eyes so that they would slightly more disturbing.  

Settings: F3, 1/20 ISO 800 FL4mm

In these two the top one I think I look insane and unhinged and this is what I wanted to capture - these shots are a good first test of the look and expression I am trying to create - I will shoot these again but as a first test I feel I am getting somewhere ...

Monday 15 February 2021

Disturbance: Experimentation

 After the last post with my test shots, I have experimented with mixed media using the photograph.  I mounted the photograph on canvas board (just using mounting spray).  Then I used the monochrome colour palette shown on my folio board to experiment with the medium.  Below is the original shot and then the mixed media piece.

I liked the idea of disturbance and a more painful look to the image so I created cuts to the legs and the hand appears bloody.  

Death is a disturbance to those looking at it, as is pain and this is what is expressed here.  Kiefer often used photographs, mixed media and incorporated writing into his works here is an early piece from the 1960s. 

'In his series 'Occupations' Keifer immediately challenges the viewer to ponder once again the incomprehensible horror of the Nazi era; in the flamboyance of the Nazi 'Sieg Heil' he spares neither the viewer nor himself since he serves as the model for the saluting figure (as above)' (Kiefer A. 1987)

This idea of shaking the viewer and the artist through the work is something that I wanted to explore here.  Obviously Kiefer's work has the weight of history, the pain of the millions at its heart ...


Kiefer A. (1987) Anselm Kiefer. Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA

Media & Art: Test Shots

 I wanted to experiment first with the look of the photos I will be creating which essentially will be a study for the paintings so following my folio board I was working on this look  'Lustmord' (1922) by Otto Dix  

'Lustmord' (1922) by Otto Dix  

This is my first contact sheet - I checked the light and then shot these in black and white.  I used a film grain filter so that they had a gritty look to them.  To take these I used my Olympus Stylus SH-2 and tripod. I took these in the morning so I would get as much natural light from the window as possible.

I was trying to get the look of death but with covid restrictions - so here are the two that I thought best did this:

Settings: FL 4.5mm, 1/60, F3, ISO 125

Settings: FL 4.5mm, 1/80, F3, ISO 125

The second shot here is more successful in that it is closer and get the whole body in the shot - I like the overexposure in the background as this concentrates the viewer on the body.  I think these have some potential and I will shoot again using a different camera to see if I can create a different, maybe darker scene - however death happens even in sunshine so there is something to that.  

I will be exploring this again through sketches and experiments but this is one of the pieces I want to use in the final portfolio as I had been thinking about these shots for some time and I do think they are expressing the concept as I had envisioned.

Thursday 11 February 2021

Executing the End Times: Folio Board

 As my previous post explained I am exploring laughter, the laughter of the end times and so I created a development folio board that shows some of my sketches and ideas 

On the board here I have been working on expressionist style and then I have worked on the images so that they are laughing, I want to develop the laughing images further and the ones with face masks which I have used here on the copy of the Otto Dix image.  There is much more to do but this helped me to find the style and direction I wanted my images to take.  

Yue Minjun: Maniacal Laughter

 Yue Minjun Yue Minjun (b. 1962, Heilongjiang, China) became famous after creating the piece Execution (1995) showing the laughing protesters as they were about to be executed.  

This idea of laughter is obviously not because we think it is hilarious, it the maniacal laughter when we face death.  This art has been term 'cynical realism' 

Sigmund Freud created 'Relief Theory'  on why we laugh.  The basis of this theory is that it relieves nervous energy in us, it saves psychic energy, excess of energy is released by laughing and that dreams and humour allow us to enjoy pleasure unconsciously. (Eightron 2021)

George Bataille also considered laughter an important philosophy and equated it with the 'the violence of spasmodic joy lies deep in my heart.  This violence, at the same time, and I tremble as I say it, is the heart of death: it opens itself up to me!
The ambiguity of this human life is really that of mad laughter and of sobbing tears.  It comes from the difficulty of harmonising reason's calculations with these tears ...with this horrible laugh' (Bataille 1989)

There is an idea that it is difficult to recognise the difference between tears of laughter and tears in facial expression.  The image below is the photographer Oscar Rejlander who worked with Charles Darvin on photographic illustrations for his books. Darwin knew many photographers as he had been photographed by many of them and he legitimized using photographs instead of the drawing and engravings in scientific books.  Darwin wanted to recognise emotions and so created a book called The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animal (1872) 'Darwin spent years collecting and studying photographs and paintings of the various emotions. He corresponded at length with zookeepers, photographers, illustrators, and even the directors of mental institutions (he felt mental patients exhibited ‘unrestrained emotions’ that would make good examples), obtaining photographs and illustrations to use in his book.' (Cicala R. 27/02/2021) 


So why the fascination with laughter, I am fascinated by the philosophy of laugher and my work on the end times I want to incorporate that end of world laughter that we see here.  It is not laughing in face of death, it perhaps laughing despite death or perhaps just that death itself is a blessed relief.  I hope that I can feel the joy and ecstasy of laughter through this work...


Projects Eightron (11/02/2021) Laughter [Online] Available from (Accessed (11/02/2021)

Laura (2007) If its hip, it's here: The Magnificient Smile of Yue Minjun [Online] Available from (Accessed (11/02/2021)

Batialle G (1989) The Tears of Eros. City Lights Books. San Francisco

Cicala R. (27.02.2012) Lensrentals: Six Degrees of Charles Darwin, and Rejlander’s Last Laugh. [Online] Available from: (Accessed (11/02/2021)

Monday 8 February 2021

What do I know about Photography?

This is my own example from the class exercise 'What do I know..?'

What should I be doing in my subject area?

I should be learning about photographers, critical theory of photography such as Walter Benjamin, Solomon Godeau, Roland Barthes, John Berger, Susan Sontag and many more.

I should be discovering different photography techniques and practicing these.  

I should be creating many different types of projects both technical and conceptual to really understand the many different aspects of photography 

I should go to galleries and shows

I should keep up to date with a changing digital world and the latest in photography 

What skills and knowledge do I need for my subject area?

I need the knowledge stated above but also knowledge of how photography works in the world today and how I could promote my photography work

The skills I need are understanding all my camera settings, understanding frame, composition, and light.  I need to have a clear digital workflow and storage system for my work

What jobs can I get by studying in this subject?

I could work as a freelance photographer, photo editor, photo archivist, curator, photographer for newspaper or magazine, graphic designer, teacher, 

If I scored myself out of ten, with ten being the highest, how well do I think I know my own subject area?

I would give myself an eight as I still think there is much to learn!  Also, technology changes very quickly and there is much to discover!

Monday 1 February 2021

The History of Me!

 Today in class we discussed research and how understanding a person and what made a person become themselves and to understand their work was vital in our research when looking at other artists.  We, therefore, created a history of ourselves and what made us become ourselves.  This is my work here.  I have shown my early years and teenage years - I decided not to add my entire life story as this would be a task, I thought the formative years would do!  I have added my personality traits, people who are most important to me, and things that have altered or changed the direction of my life. 

I enjoyed this task and particularly seeing what others had done as this was an insight into them and their lives and how they expressed themselves as artists/designers.  It was insightful and uplifting - thank you to my group for this.