University Of Tasmania
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Re-contextualising the spectacle of online gastronomy : a studio investigation into contemporary food imaging

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:20 authored by Taylor, NJ
This studio-based research project examines the pictorial compositions of contemporary food imaging. It investigates how painting and time-based media can effectively reframe identified visual tropes to broaden understanding around the shifting forms of food representation. The research is focused on high-end food imagery, which represents the rise of autonomous visual-based food genres online, including, but not limited to, chef websites, curated image feeds and food porn. Explored through a dual-medium approach, this thesis identifies how the interactive practices of digital media, image manipulation and social media, are redefining photographic representation within this genre. This includes examining the application of exaggerated pictorial tropes, design, styling and performative elements and their role in visually rendering an era aspiring to high-end sensorial experiences. Pictorial analysis, supported by Roland Barthes, Kenneth Bendiner, Norman Bryson, and Hal Foster, identifies a continuation of imaging trends between contemporary and historical food representations. Trends include routinely applied modes of creative disruption, such as embellishment, compositional framing and the use of props to choreograph images. Historical artworks from the seventeenth-century by Dutch still life painters Pieter de Ring and Joachim Beuckelaer, as well as Post-Impressionistic works by Paul Cezanne, inform the analysis and are examined as key cultural markers. The research is structured around four conceived stylistic image frameworks - entertainment, authenticity, mastery and innovation - which suggest that contemporary food imagery normalises exaggerated visual tropes in order to activate desire-based triggers of aspiration and reassurance. The research is framed through the cultural theory discourse of food imagery as outlined by Anne McBride, Erin McDonnell, Signe Rousseau and Yasmin Ibrahim, examining food porn and social media. This discussion considers representation as a form of critique and is explored through works by Audrey Flack and Richard Prince, specifically in the context of photography's subjective role in constructing meaning through image making that assists society to perceive the world. Further contextualisation situates the research within the collaborative space of food and fine art, as well as through curated exhibitions, such as Harvest, hosted by the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane, and fine art dinners, which accompany exhibitions, such as Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age hosted by the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney. Studio methodologies of painted hyper-realism, photographic re-contextualisation and digital manipulation are viewed in relation to the choreographed design of fashion-based images, as evidenced through the works of photographers Aleksandra Kingo, Maurizio Di Iorio and Jess Bonham, who embrace an idealistic and mannered aesthetic. Through the analogue medium of paint and the digital technologies of camera and computer, artworks within this thesis present a multi-textured exploration of hyper-realistic representation. They aim to activate a sense of the uncanny by de-contextualising gesture through animation and looping, as well as through painted digital styling. The application of painted and photographic representation examines the varying degrees of collapsed and expanded critical distance that the viewer maintains with contemporary images. The research proposes that through digital technologies and increased dissemination online, food imaging has evolved to become an essential part of the online visual economy. This studio-based research contributes to the contemporary cultural discourse on food representation by analysing the visual tropes of food imaging and the influence of digital technologies on its aesthetic evolution.


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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 2018 the author Chapter 2 appears to be the equivalent of the Author's Original Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Communication research and practice on 19/6/18, available online:

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  • Open

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