In a cross over between the comfort of the kitchen and the dominion of the studio, it felt perfect that any artwork should undergo hot oil in the method of deep-frying. The alchemy of painting is surprisingly close to the recipe and material substances of batter – egg yolk in tempera, linseed oil mixed with pigments, the ground white powder of gesso, the heat and energy of hands. Both the space of the kitchen and the space of the studio operate as a lab of material transformation. The process of frying rekindles a simpler time when deep-fried food wasn’t scowled at for its high calories and dizzying fat. How we think, feel and act is a direct consequence of the society that nourishes us, and as the working-class rise, taste has a cavalier way of expressing itself; it is articulated status or lack thereof. The most prestigious and revered cultural objects are those which have been consecrated by powerful institutions and people. Expressions of taste are assertions of power or powerlessness. Social inequities are reinforced, perpetuated on the basis of cultural distinction, invisible market forces lead us towards a cultural condescending of taste. For the creation of an artwork, boundaries of taste must be relieved, for to really play with a city and its people you need to explore like an unbridled traveller, without the burden of history and veiled hierarchies.
Hot oil, re-fried over and over, glows like gold. Like specimens at the Hunterian Museum, they expand like diseases, a collection of cadavers, artefacts soft and soaking. Great affliction precedes enlightenment. Highly caloric food bears the traces of less prosperous times and can explain how the material conditions of existence have a significant effect on our choices. Deep frying is a ritualistic purging, originating from missionaries in Portugal who used it as a way to fulfil fasting and abstinence rules around the ember days, Quattuor Tempora. It travelled to the port of Nagasaki and detonated as a street food that later climbed from fishmongers to haute cuisine, fried food is part of a collective effervescence. Resplendent, silvered heat simmers, it is roasting, blazing in sterling brilliance the movement of foil drones. As our experience is increasingly isolated, mechanized, how estranged are we or how much closer do we want to come to the enchantment of matter, of material alchemy and the soulful and imperfect work of the human hand?
Words Gala Bell
Fry Up by Gala Bell– 32 Thurloe Place, South Kensington part of KCAW20 High Street Windows
About the Artist
Gala Bell is a London based multidisciplinary artist. The alchemy of matter is at the epicentre of Bell’s practice. Ignited by material experiences, art history fuses with divergent forms that combine processes such as casting in sugar, deep frying, submerging in gels or oils, combining materials and methods that explore new rituals in art making. Here, materials and actions become metonymic, swapping roles between kitchen techniques, craftsmanship and tradition. Engaging with concepts of value, taste, hierarchy and absurd labour, the space of the kitchen and the studio operate as a lab of material transformation, creating pairings that lead to new processes, meanings and possibilities.
Bell is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and City and Guilds Art School. She has been selected for exhibitions with The Design Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the Great Exhibition Road Festival, The London Design Festival with Mint Gallery, Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz in Berlin, and Galerie der HBKsaar in Saarsbrucken. Bell has had commissions by BBC One and Tate and Lyle for her sugar sculptures, with a piece acquired by the Tate and Lyle Museum archive in London. She has been included in publications with Dazed magazine and Art Reveal, with interviews by BBC One Tribe and The Royal Docks, and an interview feature on To The Studio Podcast. @galabelll