Review :: Still Life: The Food Bowl at Artereal

June 13th 2011


When I consider the effects of salinity on the Murray-Darling basin, it’s fair to say my eyes glaze over. When I saw the latest exhibition from married couple Ken & Julia Yonetani, Still Life: The Food Bowl, however, I was both amazed and suddenly fascinated with salinity.

Just to give you some background: approximately 90% of Australia’s fresh food is produced along the Murray-Darling basin, commonly known as Australia’s ‘food bowl.’ In an attempt to stop rising salt levels in the water, about 550,000 tonnes of salt is pumped out of the ground every year. They form these sand-dune like mountains of salt supplies that Ken & Julia have collected and used to create art.

In the centre of the gallery stands a bleached white dining table, which holds an array of ivory-coloured foods. There is fish, halved avocados, grapes nestled amongst candles and goblets, all of this same chalky colouring. It is only on closer inspection that I realise that what I am looking at is salt solidified and moulded to form these perfect shapes. Hanging on the walls are five densely ornamented empty canvas frames, also made out of salt. And suspended from the ceiling is a heavily beaded chandelier, holding – I am told – 5000 balls of salt, all individually crafted and moulded by Ken and Julia!

The Yonetanis have made a powerful, yet not in-your-face, comment about salinity in Australia, and the guilt we all share. By our food consumption we take part in causing the environmental impacts the Murray-Darling is facing. The use of the baroque style of sculpture harks back to these ideas of wealth and over-consumption at their genesis.

I think what I loved about this exhibition is that you leave not only having viewed some of the most technical mastery of salt and moulding I can honestly say I have ever witnessed, but also with that niggling guilt about an issue we really don’t spend that much time worrying about. You should definitely go along to Artereal in Rozelle to see Ken & Julia Yonetani, if not because of the environment, then only to see the startling things that can be done with food flavouring.

What: Still Life: The Food Bowl

Where: Artereal Gallery, Darling St, Rozelle

When: Wed – Sat, 11am – 5pm, until July 2nd

How much: Free

Image: Courtesy of the artists and Artereal Gallery, Sydney. Copyright Ken + Julia Yonetani 2011


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