Installation view, Foyer Restaurant, Aberdeen

FOYER Love Letter (2006)

F.O.Y.E.R Love Letter (2006)

26 found and bought ceramic plates, Laser Tran, vinyl lettering, metal plate holders



Devised specifically for the Foyer Restaurant, Aberdeen, this work comprised of 26 found and bought china plates. Each plate holds one letter - comprised from watercolours of tongues. The style of creating the watercolours were originally produced in 1993 see (Tongues, 1993).  The words (bitter-sweet) in italics and in brackets were made from vinyl lettering – which followed as a kind of postscript or explanation to the little poem/ love letter.

 The poem is based on an acronym of the restaurant’s name in acknowledgement of Foyer movement. Profits made through the consumption of food have gone directly towards housing for the homeless and for retraining and support. Alongside the Foyer Restaurant itself are a number of flats and accommodation specifically for homeless people.

 The piece for the Foyer is exactly that - a love letter to the Foyer from me. I love the Foyer – both politically and socially and the piece was a way to honour the organisation’s success in both nurturing and in empowering the local community. A Good Mother to the Public Body. Every time we went there I would feel uplifted – the space, the artwork, for the Foyer is also a gallery, always sensitively curated and stylish. The coloured walls of the place - deep red, cobalt blue, lime green I seem to remember somewhere.

The exhibition, which featured F.O.Y.E.R. love letter, was called Found Word that I took part in for the Aberdeen International Word Festival with two other artists. The curved red wall that is featured in the gallery provided a place to hang the plates. I wanted to make something that embodied the act of eating and nurturing – to be made of the same process by which the Foyer Restaurant made it’s success – through the cooking of food for others – the convivial act of shared tasting and eating. To make that physically tangible somehow while remaining poetic and to link as I have been interested to, the ways in which the mouth is involved in an ongoing double act – eating and talking, tasting and pleasuring, speaking while remaining silent. The plates became the domestic frame for both the mouth and the restaurant.

The bitter sweet analogy made sense in relation to relatively wealthy people being able to go into the Foyer and eat good food while they are also doing a service to the homeless people to whom the profits from the organisation go to support them in terms of accommodation and training and health support etc. A little aside in relation to tasting – that also is relevant in context of the sub text, a friend told me that in contemporary times bitter foods have been left out of our diet. That we prefer the taste of sweet, salty and sour flavours. Bitter foods have nutrition to them she said that we are therefore lacking apparently. So do we need a balance of flavours as much as tastes? Medicine is bitter – bitter is good for you. Bitter-sweet analogy to suffering?

A friend said they reminded them of chillies. A reading I related to came from Ken Neil, then lecturer in critical and contextual studies at Gray’s School of Art who offered ‘jus’ - the juice on the plate -  a kind of decoration or affect - the contemporary artifice which contemporary restaurants such as the Foyer subscribe but also a spillage. That makes sense and also reminded me of ‘licking the plate’ – a child’s reaction to deliciousness and one of prolonged pleasure perhaps after hunger itself has been satiated. Is this mouth hunger then?

Sometimes the flavour is most savoured this way when I lick from the plate, a finger or knife, scraping delicious leftovers and remnants. The crumbs of cake picked up on the end of a finger, collected by being pressed together on the fingertip and then popped into the mouth. Is the pleasure, in part due to the breaking of social constraints, behaving improperly around food or in being more closely embodied – using ones own body to eat rather than with cutlery?