A Natural Encounter with Food and Art

5 Sep 2012
Photos by FoodNews

Just a few weeks ago when I was fascinated by the beautiful portrayal of nature through music at Brendan-Keefe Au’s recital Stories From The Garden, I felt the need to visit the botanic gardens to refresh my sensory memories of the gentle look of the plants and smell in the air.

Never have I thought the opportunity of escaping from the busy urban life into the serenity of the botanic gardens came so early, as our friends at FoodNews invited us to a special occasion where art, food and nature came together to form a pleasant combination. These three subjects are wonderful enough in their own realms; but the combination is a surprise ensemble.

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It was the launch of an exhibition of watercolour paintings by Ong Kim Seng and his students, titled Gardens of Inspiration, held on 30 August 2012 at Villa Halia – the event space operated by The Halia. An artist who masters the painting of landscapes, a fine restaurant encircled by natural greenery and an invaluable botanic garden in the modern urban setting of Singapore contributed to the inspirations needed for the creation of the exhibition, and a complementing set dinner specially prepared by the chefs of The Halia.

I felt privileged to be guided by one of the painters, Sandra Berrick, through the exhibition, and thrilled by the close bond among the students in Ong’s classes. They shared a common passion for the nature, but were strongly encouraged by their teacher to adopt their own approaches in their creations. Some were extremely careful with the intricate details; some were gifted in portraying the ‘moods’ of the atmosphere; and the master himself excelled in manipulating the elements of weather to create the perfect lighting effect for the most desirable visual representation of the subjects.

I have also learned a great deal about the relevance of botanical art in the highly digitalized world today, not only in the field of artistic appreciation but also in science and research. As photography of plants in the open is heavily affected by weather and state of the plants, painting – with total freedom in constructing every element on the canvas – remains an ideal way in depicting the plants in their perfect forms.

The graceful union of art and garden has induced the recollection of memories for people who have been in close proximity to nature in certain stages of their lives. Ong shared with us his fond memories of the Singapore Botanic Gardens of about half a century ago, when the gardens were less sculptured hence the wildness of the South East Asian-style of countryside was preserved. The chef of The Halia also travelled down memory lane when he looked at the paintings and marveled at the strong resemblance with places where he studied the culinary art in France. As he explained his inspiration for preparing the dishes, what we grasped were not only the use of colours and layout on the plates but also the creativity of combining different ingredients to bring out different layers of tastes that signified the complexity of nature.

If you are looking for a scenic hangout with a fine dining experience, try what The Halia is offering from 30 August to 16 September. The scenic course runs from the content in the frames, on the dining table, and beyond the windows. The nature’s feast awaits you.

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