(THE BUSINESS TIMES) -
CONNECT THE DOTS
Fans of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama are not only lapping up her quirky art installations and buying her merchandise, but also eating desserts inspired by her works.
Two eateries are offering menus inspired by Kusama, who is exhibiting her works at the National Gallery Singapore, which runs till Sept 3.
At Gallery & Co, the National Gallery's cafe and shop, the Yayoi Special Food Menu comprises an appetiser, main dish, dessert and Bobba tea, presented in a manner that embodies Kusama's work in culinary form. This menu is available only during the duration of the exhibition.
No surprises then that the Yayoi-pumpkin inspired dessert has been the most popular. Drawing inspiration from her iconic Dotted Pumpkin work, the dessert features tropical ingredients such as mango and coconut. It is shaped like the real art piece, down to the black dots.
This is the first time that Gallery & Co has a menu that is exhibition-specific. Mr Arthur Chin, a partner at Gallery & Co, says: "Having an exhibition-inspired food menu makes a visitor's time at the art gallery more memorable, experiential and immersive."
Those who cannot get enough of Kusama can also head to The Courtyard, at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, for the Yayoi Kusama-inspired Afternoon Tea.
Five specially crafted sweets are served as part of its regular three-tier set. The sweets are inspired by artwork: a cube of lychee mousse flecked with dots, which mirrors the constellation in Gleaming Lights Of Souls. A strawberry shortcake, topped with whipped cream and sandwiched between cocoa butter printed with striations, bear the mark of Life Is The Heart Of A Rainbow.
The sweets are the brainchild of executive pastry chef Enrico Pezzelato, himself a Kusama fan.
The Yayoi-Kusama-inspired Afternoon Tea is available till July 31.
From far, they look like colourful reams of batik fabric, but get closer and take a whiff - they are actually very edible Swiss rolls.
Avid baker Nura Alkhatib started Batikrolls by Nura last year and her colourful Swiss rolls have been flying off the shelves, especially during Hari Raya celebrations. Her customers are not only Singaporeans, but also come from Malaysia and Brunei. Even tourists have caught on and taken them back to Taiwan, Australia and Germany.
Ms Nura was inspired by her mother, who loved baking. Her mum frequently baked and often sent guests home with her sweet gifts.
"I want to continue this tradition and share some of my mum's beloved cakes with more people," says Ms Nura. "I used one of my mum's Swiss roll recipes and fused it with inspiring roll cake art which I've seen from around the world."
She adds that the process of making Batikrolls is similar to creating a beautiful art piece. "The difference is my canvas is parchment paper and the paint is cake batter."
Depending on the intricacies of the batik patterns, each Batikroll may take more than an hour to create.
Ms Nura starts by creating a motif of the batik on the parchment paper, which she either draws free-hand or uses a stencil. The paper lines the baking pan.
Next, she colours in the motif using cake batter of different colours, after which the batter is steamed to make it firm. The next step then is to pour more cake batter into the baking pan.
After baking the cake, she flips it over and gently removes the parchment paper. The cake is then flipped back to its underside, filled with Nutella, blueberry or vanilla buttercream and rolled.
Customers can pick from several designs and each Batikroll costs from $26.
Ms Nura says batik is becoming a lost art and the younger generation does not really know what it is. "Batikrolls let me innovate batik with a modern twist," she says.
"Instead of creating batik on cloth, I create batik with cake. With each bite, customers are literally eating a piece of history."
Batikrolls by Nura is available at batikrolls.com.
Industrial designer Olivia Lee is no stranger to mixing food, design and art.
In 2015, she created an installation, The Marvellous Marble Factory, for Singaplural, where she played with the perception of materials and processes by swapping the roles of ice cream and marble. She created "ice cream" made of stone and gave out "marble-flavoured" ice cream. "A material was presented as something edible and people loved it," she says.
Next, she moved on to taking a design and art approach to candy-making. "There are many parallels between candy-making and the industrial process of resin-casting," she says. She also wanted to create an experience for participants that engages all five senses.
"It's quite mesmerising when boiling hot sugar sizzles and reacts with different ingredients. The combination of fragrances that is released by the heat is intoxicating. I wanted to give people the opportunity to spend time appreciating flavours and ingredients for what they are," she says.
Recently, she was invited by whisky maker The Balvenie through its "Connoisseurs of Craft" series to conduct a similar workshop.
Participants learnt to work and cast sugar with spices and dried fruit and harmonise different ingredients through taste and aesthetics.
Ms Lee says the results were a cross between glass art and botanical specimens and yet, still edible.