Ayako Suwa of Japan brings finesse, passion and emotional complexity to her food creations. She finds inspiration in scents, herbs and spices from all around the world, writes Zoe Mak
Renowned Japanese food artist Ayako Suwa was in town last month to introduce some of her creations to Hong Kong. Shopping mall wtc more is showcasing the artist and her material in an exhibition that will run until early next month.
Like well known fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Comme des Garcons who excels in turning simple materials into eye-catching fashion apparel, Suwa takes everyday food items and turns them into art - art you can eat.
A graduate of Japan's respected Kanazawa College of Art, with a background in graphic design, Suwa initially worked on interior design with Tokyo company D&Department. But in 2006, she ventured on her own to form Food Creation. She wanted to explore food not just as visual and taste mediums, but as one that can be appreciated by all five senses.
Suwa explains that when, for example, we look at a painting and listen to music, our visual and auditory senses are stimulated. 'But when you eat, all your five senses are fulfilled,' she says, adding: "it's also a very good medium to express feelings too.
A food art item, for Suwa, is something you look at and smell before putting into your mouth and biting into it, hearing your teeth grind into it, tasting it and feeling the texture with your tongue.
Suwa talks about the Christmas-themed food creations featured at the demonstration event of the exhibition.
She says just one bite is enough to get the message contained in any of her artistic creations. For Suwa, food creates emotional response.
'When you are sad you should eat something different from when you are happy because eating is a form of self-expression.'
For her demonstration at the exhibition, Suwa came up with six artistic creations. Each represents different emotions: 'Shame and Joy' (mushroom, fresh cream and mint), 'Fun and Happiness' (chrysanthemum, chocolate and popcorn), 'Happiness and Sorrow' (grapes and pine nuts), 'Love' (apple, ham and cranberry), 'Satisfaction' (cashew nuts and black olives) and 'Guilt' (chocolate and mint powder).
But Suwa admits there is more to her art than meets the eye, and that every creation has secret ingredients she cannot share with anyone.
As for food in Hong Kong, Suwa says she tucked into turtle jelly and thought it was one of the most amazing things she had ever tried.
'It was inspirational. The herbal taste was very strong and it penetrated right into my tongue,' she says, adding that she would like to try snake soup.
Suwa says she uses natural scents, herbs and spices as much as possible, and spends a lot of time travelling in search of ingredients for her art.
'I get inspiration everywhere. I've found Chinese medicinal herb shops in Hong Kong fascinating. I want to try Chinese herbs in some of my creations.'
Dishes: A taste of anxiety slowly blended with terror; a lingering taste of regret with overtones of anger welling up; a taste of oppression, etc. Photo: Ayako Suwa
Ayako Suwa's 'Taste of Christmas Food Art' exhibition runs daily from 10am to 11pm at wtc more until January 1. For details, call 2576 4121