A review of Mixology Exhibition by Jodi Meadows.
It’s a rainy bleak winters night and I drag my poor boyfriend out of our warm apartment in the name of art exposure and new experiences. So off we went to Comet Project Space to check out ‘Mixology’ an exhibition exploring the creative experience of mixing paint and gin. 6 artists were paired together. 3 painters who showed one painting each matched with 3 mixologists, who made cocktails with Bombay Sapphire Gin. Comet Project Space has recently been generously sponsored by Bombay Sapphire, what better way to celebrate this new partnership than by celebrating the creative sides of both the art and the liquor industries.
Think back to the last few openings you have attended. We have developed a ritual around an exhibition opening where there is almost always a glass of wine and some nibbles on offer to ‘complement’ the opening experience. But does it really complement the experience? Wines and even further, the liquor industry has been developing and growing for hundreds of years under the umbrella of consumption for enjoyment. BUT how many times have you gone to an exhibition opening celebration and been impressed with the taste of the wine on offer? We spend so much time figuring out how to bring art and artists into a space and convey an idea to an audience. We try our best to perfectly curate every little detail except for one thing, the drinks! WHY do we spend so much time making spaces match up with artwork and then spend so little time actually curating the whole experience by matching the wine and food with the art.
‘Mixology’ challenged this idea by asking mixologists to respond to an artists painting with a specially designed cocktail. Mixologist and painters have a few more things in common than you may think; they are both experimental, passionate about their craft and knowledgeable about the deep history that is attached to their practices. But most importantly they are all creative artists. Both painters and mixologists play with the process of mixing elements together to create layers, depth, and texture. A painting is an experience for your eyes and cocktails are a taste experience. So when you combine a visual element, like a painting and pair it with a cocktail how does that stretch the experience with each thing, and does it reveal something new when you engage both the visual and taste senses together? Research suggests that in order for an experience to be memorable you must activate more than one of the five human senses; sight, sound, smell, taste or touch.
Neoregelia Chlorosticta Sarmentosa (Lucy) - Molly Timmins
Jungle Garden - Jason Rosen
The first cocktail we tried was in front of a Neoregelia Chlorosticta Sarmentosa (Lucy) by Molly Timmins. A large scale painting that is set on a green fabric canvas. Molly has started with soft blended layers of cool colours, she then works up into a warm spectrum applied with heavier brush strokes, building up texture and depth beautifully. All of these colours and textures combine to portray an abstracted floral work reminiscent of a bromeliad, a plant that both Molly’s mother and grandmother have grown in their gardens and now her sister has a unique breed of brommeliad's named after her. Molly has created a homage to the strong affiliations that this plant has with her family and celebrates ‘Lucy’ the new species that her sister has discovered.
After seeing Molly’s painting, Jason Rosen responded with a cocktail that was our absolute favourite of the night. Jason used a custom ‘Tropical Luau Mix’ of gin and combined it with pineapple, ,mint and orange, topped up with tonic. Tropical, summery and juicy with a warming finish of roasted nuts and spices. It was the kind of cocktail that you just want to keep sipping while wearing a giant beach hat lazing around on a golden sand beach. Jason connected to the painting through the Bromeliad family, a member of this plant family is the pineapple an element that he celebrates in his concoction.
Alchemy at Dusk I & II Deborah Moss
Grandad’s Hands Guy Jacobson
Definitely my favourite pairing of the evening. I made sure with my second tasting that I isolated my experience to just viewing the painting and tasting the cocktail. What I experienced in taste matched perfectly with the two paintings in front of me.
The duo of paintings by Deborah Moss reminded me of what you might see out of the windows of a New Zealand batch in the last few hours of sun after a long summers day. The paint strokes and colours allude to a New Zealand backyard environment. Deborah approached the paintings as an experiment. Using non-conventional tools dipped in to deep greens, mauves and golden tones with hints of pohutukawa red to capture the mystery and potency of our native forest.
Guy Jacobson created a cocktail that tasted like golden honey with underlying earthy and floral notes, a warming drink with a subtle brightness. The cocktail was reminiscent of cups of earl grey tea and displayed ‘old world’ flavours of almond, rose and lemon. Guy was inspired by the time spent with his grandparents in their immaculate garden of roses, tiny hedges and sprinkles of pansies, drinking tea with lemon and eating homemade almond muffins.
Between Two Lives Ekaterina Dimieva
Untitled n.17 Andrea Marseglia
The last tasting experience in the line-up was punchier than the last two. Both Ekaterina’s painting and Andrea’s cocktail were seeking to push the viewers and tasters past their boundaries of comfort.
The painting was large and bright, stealing the viewers’ attention immediately as you walk in to the space. Ekaterina is interested in the world’s that come alive beyond our immediate reality. Can you push your imagination to those spaces where you become discontent, overwhelmed or feel a sense of yearning? Can a painting help to push your imagination to those liminal spaces that exist in imagined realities? What happens when you have a cocktail to help you along that journey of exploring your imagined realities, does it help you see, think or feel something different?
Andrea had the simplest approach in his response. Three elements; gin, sour purple potato and 3 drops of lovage oil. Visually this cocktail and painting match was the most successful. The sour purple potato is also known as Tawea (the Maori potato) a historical taonga. Cultivated by early Maori ancestors out of necessity because it was one of the only vegetables that grew consistently well across the diverse New Zealand landscape. Lovage oil is a medicine to treat internal inflammation originating from and commonly used in England. While I think that this cocktail visually connected with the painting, it did not successfully evoke the same feeling in the form of taste. Perhaps the ideas within Ekaterina’s painting were too hard to match because unlike the other two paintings it was not attached so strongly to memory.
Overall, this exhibition was incredibly enjoyable and an experience that I would like to see at gallery openings more often. Combining visual art with taste is a strong way to create an immersive experience that will remain in your memory. It is great to see Comet Project Space connecting the dots between mixologists and artists who have much more in common than meets the eye. An exhibition opening should be a heightened experience of an artist’s creation. Playing with our sense of taste and mixing it with sight is a perfect way to deepen our interactions and experience art in a new way. Attending this event at Comet with my boyfriend set up the beginning of an amazing impromptu date night where we went from the opening to dinner. The interaction with the art and the cocktails lifted our mood and led us to keep exploring new flavours over dinner at one of my favourite restaurants. Thanks for being the catalyst for a fabulous evening Comet!