The Artist’s Lunch

Alice McCormick and Sarah Rhodes have interviewed and photographed eighteen of Australia’s better known artists and produced an appealing work.
The Artist’s Lunch
The Artist’s Lunch I love coffee table books. Proper big books which are kept on coffee tables so that guests have something to look at while the hosts are putting the finishing touches to a meal, taking phone messages or putting children back into their beds. Proper coffee table books are big and beautiful, full of photos of wonderful exotic places, engaging people doing something compelling or pictures of food, more beautiful than anything I ever produce. I know they usually have words, but in truth, I rarely study the text, which in this case would be a shame because the interviews in this volume are very well done. Alice McCormick and Sarah Rhodes have interviewed and photographed eighteen of Australia’s better known artists and produced an appealing work. Their thesis is there is an affinity between artists and food, wine and company. The evidence for this is the number and quality of the paintings of people eating, preparing food, or just food itself. The artists involved in this book talk about their food, that is the food they like to prepare and eat, and their work. They talk about the way in which the way they work influences what or when they eat; Philip Wolfhagen regrets that sometimes he is too busy working to do the seasonal planting. Many of the others explain that lunching can interfere badly with the work of the day, so that at times of intense work, eating is not high on their agenda. During the interviews, with the help of the photographer commonalities and contrasts emerge. It could be chance, but perhaps it is not, that most of the kitchens in which the men are shown look more clinical and organised than the kitchens of the women. Both Margaret Olney and Wendy Sharp have personalised their kitchens in a very different way from John Olsen or Jason Benjamin. This is an aspect of to the life of the artists which would not emerge from text alone. All of those interviewed talk about the importance of the social ritual of food, for all of them food is more than mere fuel for the body. Jeffery Smart says: ‘eating food together is another great blessing.’ This is echoed in some way by all the artists interviewed. Another shared belief is that, on different levels, cooking is creative activity; ephemeral and minor perhaps, but still a creative act. From Savanhdary Vongpoothorn: ‘both processes involve combining different things to create piece that is “tasteful” whether it is for the taste buds or for the eyes’. Murdoch Press has presented the book well. Sarah Rhodes photography is allowed to integrate the interviews, with neither dominating the other. Without seeing Tim Storrier’s sketch of the dog Smudge it would be harder to understand his discussion of simple food. It would be a kindness to your guests to have this book available on your coffee table. The Artist’s Lunch Text: Alice McCormick Photography: Sarah Rhodes Murdoch Books ISBN 978 1921 269617 2009

Sue Parsons

Friday 14 August, 2009

About the author

Sue Parsons is an avid reader, and has now moved from reading medical texts to nurturing a vegie patch!