Fruit and vegetable may seem an unlikely ingredients for works of art, but fresh produce is increasingly used by artists looking for different textures and colours for their creations. Over recent months, several companies have used art made from fresh produce as a promotional tool and the services of vegetable artists are much in demand. Produce Business UK investigates.
It was Aldi’s spectacular advertisements last year which really drew attention to potential of vegetable art. Created by vegetable artist Prudence Staite, the advertisements combined fresh produce and the Olympic theme and attracted attention worldwide. Images such as athletes set against a Union flag in which the blue and red sections were made out of fruit, or the Rio Skyline utilising over 47 tonnes of fruit and veg were incredibly dramatic with its Christ the Redeemer statue made out of eight bananas, 200 grams of blueberries, eight yellow peppers, two plums and two bunches of red grapes.
Vegetable artist Prudence Staite was responsible for this stunning image.
“This was a really challenging brief to recreate such an iconic skyline that incorporates so many different elements – from the more intricate detail of the buildings to giving variation to the vast blue ocean. Thankfully, Aldi has a wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables meaning we could have a lot of fun creating the various colours and shades required,” she said.
Veg for Victory
Not long afterwards, she was involved in a very different project involving baby food company Ella’s Kitchen which was running a ‘Veg for Victory’ campaign. The company was promoting a campaign to put pressure on the Government to revise its weaning guidelines by having a veg- first approach.
The campaign had a dramatic launch. Ten large giant toy building blocks in which each face was filled with vegetables were delivered to the offices of the Department of Health, by groups of young children.
“We made the vegetable blocks to raise awareness of the importance of vegetables during weaning and the long-term impact it can have on little one’s health. They symbolise that creating a healthy relationship with food during the early years can help lay the building blocks for good eating habits throughout childhood and beyond.”
Projects of this kind have a visual impact that is extremely hard to miss.
British Museum of Food
A slightly different slant on vegetable art was experienced at Bompass & Parr’s British Museum of Food. Taking place at Borough Market in late 2015, early 2016, it incorporated a somewhat quirky, disruptive art communication style. Sam Bompas comments, “Creative work with fruit and vegetables can help give people a fresh perspective, re-enchanting otherwise mundane produce. We love giving people a ‘naked lunch’ where they truly see what is on the end of their forks. With our British Museum of Food we created a working butterfly house to champion these unsung heroes of pollination and highlight the plight of the banana due to the global mono-culture. Visitors left enthused about trying out other banana cultivars.”
On a wider scale, there are artists who now routinely use fruit and vegetables to create temporary works of art to be displayed at buffets, special occasions or for promotional purposes. Art of this kind has a long history.
Guiseppe Arcimbodo, a sixteenth century Italian painter, often created portrait heads made entirely of vegetables and fruits, while fruit carving to create decorative designs was practised seven hundred years ago in Thailand, and possibly even earlier in Japan.
Vegetable and fruit carving remains popular everywhere, and can reach incredible levels of skill. Travellers on board the C&M’s Magellen cruise ship are always amazed by the stunning creations made by the vegetable chef/artist that appeared on tables, especially the Magnificent Midnight Buffet held towards the end of a cruise. Here, creations included watermelon frogs, vegetable flowers, mice and animals of all kinds, a Native American head complete with headdress, and even an animal climbing a ‘palm’ tree made out of pineapples, oranges and melons.
One of the most well known vegetable artists, Amber Locke, now works with brands such as Harrods and Sainsbury’s, as well as creating designs used on cook book covers and prints. She also undertakes live ‘art’ demonstrations for product launches, at event and in-store installations while time lapse videos showing her creating designs are extremely popular corporate choices.
With more than 74,000 followers on Instagram, she has gained a massive audience. She says: “I did my first design purely for fun and posted it on Instagram. It had such an amazing response, I composed a few others and things just went on from there. I lay the vegetables on paper, photograph them from above and use the ingredients afterwards to make juice so nothing is wasted.”
Locke has found that companies are now queuing up to utilise her services. She explains how brands and retailers are using her work.
“It is either to showcase produce they’re selling or showcase ingredients used in a product or to convey a ‘healthy’ or ‘fresh’ feel for a project or PR campaign. Many of the clients I’ve worked with utilise my art in their social media activity and for PR purposes when launching or promoting a product or event.
“My designs get used for printing onto marketing material, for merchandise and as packaging designs and it’s sometimes printed up as fine art print for their HQ or for competitions. I’ve also created logos incorporating my art for clients, for website as wallpaper, for headline banners, in-store promotional posters and window graphics.”
Asked why she believes companies are so keen on using fruit and veg art, Locke commented: “It is a great way of attracting attention. They easily convey a fresh, healthy, positive feel and it is a great way to promote healthy eating.
“Fresh fruit and vegetables are naturally colourful, quirky and have fascinating patterns when you cut into them and come in all shapes and sizes so they make a wonderfully extensive ‘pallet’ to work with, showcasing beautiful ingredients in an interesting and eye-catching way.”