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Fashion Folio: Imogen Kwok On Creating Multisensory Installations

Fashion Folio: Imogen Kwok On Creating Multisensory Installations

What happens when art and cuisine collide? The London-based experimental food artist Imogen Kwok has some ideas. She talks dream collaborations, her whimsical style, launching into homeware and the people on her radar.

Food artist Imogen Kwok has the unique experience of being both a trained chef and a history of art graduate. She combines both passions through her work, making beguiling multisensory installations that blend the boundaries between sculpture and cuisine.

Whether she’s creating bespoke menus featuring trompe l’oeil peanut pearls for the Rosewood London, a painterly glacé fruit mise en scène for Sotheby’s Old Masters department, or helping brands cause a splash during fashion week – Loewe and Miu Miu are previous collaborators – her playful yet carefully composed edible still-lifes transcend being mere food.

With such creativity, it’s no surprise much of Kwok’s inspiration comes from beyond the realm of haute cuisine. As her finger is firmly on the pulse of new artists, designers and exhibitions that help shape unique aesthetic, we’re lucky to get a window into her beautiful world.

Imogen Kwok

What inspired you to become a food artist? How would you describe your job to someone who knew nothing about it?

What I love about my work is that it crosses boundaries between art and design through a multisensory experience. Whenever I’m creating something, I’m thinking of its materiality or texture, concept, physical presence, relationship to a person, use of ingredients and cooking methods, as well as taste.

I like to make people think about food in a different way and be surprised and excited about it. I lean towards sharp geometric shapes, patterns and sculptural forms that aren’t often seen before. For example, manipulating a charcuterie or a saucisson, which is something people think they’re familiar with, into a memorable shape in undulating curves and changing your assumptions and view of it.

I’m also known for creating very whimsical works that baffle people because of their trompe l’oeil nature. There’s so much experimentation, idea development and, truthfully, trial and error that goes into it. As it’s cooking, of course, it needs to be delicious as well as impactful, which takes time and patience.

The way I like to present and photograph my work is extremely precise, but the process behind the scenes is always a bit chaotic – that’s also very important, because I learn from mistakes and often the solution for a technique or method that doesn’t work out is the best one.

One of Kwok’s food installations

Tell us about some of the brands you’ve collaborated with.
I love making an entire set design or installation to present my food in a very visually striking way. This involves sourcing or making pieces in my studio to complement the dishes; the latter has become far more frequent, so I can design exactly what I’d like to use, whether it’s ceramic, wood or even papier-mâché. This type of freedom to make more than food has really changed the way I approach my work – having the mindset of building objects in addition to cooking.

Recent standouts include Matteau for Paris Fashion Week held at Tom Van Dorpe’s apartment, launching a stationery set exclusively for Hauser & Wirth’s Mount Street cultural event programme, Un Jardin à Cythère fragrance launch for Hermès at Cromwell Place and a chocolate-sweets installation for Miu Miu during London Fashion Week.

Tell us about your collaboration with Rosewood London.

Rosewood London invited me to do a culinary residency at the Mirror Room restaurant, where I created a tasting menu in partnership with Ruinart champagne. We launched it during London’s Frieze Week as part of Rosewood’s 10-year anniversary programme, and it ran for four months. It was so exciting to be able to share this menu that was in my signature style and included “fan favourites” from events I’ve done in the past.

What was the last item you bought and loved?

The new kettle from Swedish brand Aarke – I have its carbonator pro already, and it makes the sleekest products in a beautiful chrome finish – my kitchen is so much more chic with them.

Kwok’s studio cocktail series

Are there any emerging brands or designers you have an eye on right now?

I’m loving 16Arlington, Ottolinger, Supriya Lele and WED Studio.  

And an artist whose work you’re currently loving?

It’s impossible to choose just one, but right now I’m a fan of Daiga Grantina, Karla Black, Amy Revier and Lotus Laurie Kang.

See Also

Which beauty product can’t you do without?

I love the entire Hermès Beauty collection, but especially the Ombres d’Hermès eye shadow quartets, either in Ombres Marines or Ombres Fumées. They’ve put these palettes together so wonderfully and, as someone who was never very bold with eye make-up, I’m finally using blues and silvers. I also adore the Rouge Hermès lipsticks; the actual lipstick case is such a beautiful object in itself.

What’s your signature scent?

I choose my scent based on my mood in the morning. As I’m cooking during the day and surrounded by so many different aromas, it makes me want to switch up my own fragrance often. At the moment my two favourites are Thé Matcha 26 by Le Labo and Orange Blossom Eau de Cologne by APC.

Kwok’s signature scents

Which travel destination is at the top of your list this year?

I’m Chinese and Korean, but haven’t properly spent time in Seoul since I was young – that’s the next place I’d love to spend a long time exploring. I grew up in New York but now live in London, so it’s really easy to travel within Europe for the weekend. I recently visited Portugal and stayed in a stunning, raw, monolithic house by Manuel Aires Mateus booked through Boutique Homes, which has a very special, curated selection of places.

Tell us about a recent exhibition you went to and loved.

Many! I went to Cambridge for the first time and visited the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard (I knew I’d fall in love with both and was so relieved to find neither disappointed!).  Also, the 118 1⁄2 Group Exhibition at Emalin’s new space in Shoreditch, Shuvinai Ashoona: When I Draw at The Perimeter and Barbara Kruger’s solo exhibition at the Serpentine.  

Source: Prestige Online

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