Award-winning artist Jasper Udink ten Cate is also known as Creative Chef. Combining his work as a chef and as an artist, he specialises in food, tableware design, paintings and graphics. Part of his practice includes creating art pieces with the help of his dining guests; in these performance pieces he captures the energy of the moment.
A: Food has constantly been the source of inspiration and subject matter for artists, from Dutch Vanitas to contemporary advertising. Why is it of interest to you?
JUtC: Food is my paint. I It’s my second nature. Since I was young everything which had the subject of food was interesting for me. That’s why I became a chef. I believe it’s so interesting because you can give it to others.That is for me the most precious and satisfying thing about it. Furthermore, I love the concept of stories, and food is one of the best characters. Stories about taste, about aesthetics, about moments, about politics, about meeting people, culture, memories, about celebrating and lots more.
A: What do you think is the relevance of dialogues between food, design and graphics?
JUtC: I think it is never about the object and taste of the food. It is also not about the object of designs or graphics. Instead, the combination of these things creates stories, not only mine but for others. Combining everything can become a starting point of a story of the viewer or visitor – a story where food and other objects can actually become part of something bigger, not just an object that sends out signals based on a sense of aesthetics.
A: You works perhaps comment on the everyday, creating transient sculptures with fruits and vegetables. Do you think there is an importance in recognising beauty in the quotidian?
JUtC: I believe that there is; these days I miss a sense of real focus on moments. People are always occupied with hollow concepts like social media profiles. Seeing beauty in a singular moment and the elegance behind everyday things makes you feel alive.
A: There is also an element of performance to the pieces, including dining guests and commenting on the notion of cuisine as an active gesture. Why do you think this is interesting conceptually?
JUtC: I think it is pretty interesting to create art with each other. The end result is never my own work, but also something i do with my guests. So, it is not about me saying; “Listen, this is what I think and make, so you have to like it”. It’s more like: “This is a stage I create to offer something positive.” It’s a concept that can be explored for years to come. I am now experimenting with the stage of a restaurant – how can I create an art piece where the restaurant is the stage?
A: How do you think that art is both an inclusive and participatory type of expression?
JUtC: Well, in the end I am the one who starts the art initiative because i choose to do something at an art stage. I am the one who is framing my work into an art piece, but I invite participants with the help of food to become part of my story. Without my guests I cannot create art.
A: Is there a deeper element of ethical connotations to the works in terms of consumerism, or a metaphorical reading in terms of vitality and decadence?
JUtC: Yes, the deeper meaning is about the in-existence of a right or wrong. I am always working with the knowledge that everybody has an opinion about things. Opinions are ways to express yourself but they also give you a place in a context or lifestyle. What you think is the result of culture, parenthood, school, life experience, the transience of the age in which we live. I am questioning these things and I am trying to let people see that they can see things differently. The use of food and the frame of art is the language I use to express these ideas.
A: What has been your most adventurous work to date?
JUtC: My most adventurous work was the use of the Salone del Mobile in Milano as a canvas to create a video art piece, and I designed the tables within the composition. The visitors came by and had a plant-based dish which they ate within this composition. Whilst they were eating they were filmed from above, which in turn added another layer to the piece. During the film, you could see invisible lines between the guests who connected with each other.
A: What do you have planned for 2017?
JUtC: I am planning to go to New York in May at the Wanted design fair to show my ceramics. I am also planning to do more restaurant experiences and in the end of the year I am planning a solo exhibition in Amsterdam.
1. Jasper Udink ten Cate, Table Jewelry. Courtesy of the artist.