Edible Art

When thinking of fine arts, oil paintings, sculptures or printmaking come to mind. However, Thailand’s Panya Wijinthanasan had other thoughts when he decided to present his work at the Sweet Mania Festival this summer. The Sweet Mania Festival is a ten-day gala that brings all the famous and top sweet and snack shops from all over the country to one location for people to conveniently sample each shop’s delicacies. Wijinthanasan, the famous 35-year-old artist, collaborated with the theme of the festival and surprised his fans with six canvases made entirely from sweets and snacks. He used jellybeans, marshmallows, croissants, buns, bread sticks, icing, chocolate, pretzels, Japanese rice crackers and Thai traditional dessert to form amazingly detailed pictures that represent projects the King and Queen of Thailand have established in the past years. These projects ranged from setting up camps, to saving endangered sea turtles, to man-made rain projects for droughts to providing handicraft jobs for homeless women. One of the pieces also presented the King’s most important motto “Por Pieng,” which means living sufficiently without excess. This is one of the King’s oldest and most famous saying. Each canvas was delicately made and thought out, with each and every little piece in the perfect place. It is astounding how anyone can have the patience to line up rows and rows of breadsticks and biscuits to make roofs of traditional Thai houses, or to carefully arrange marshmallows to make a few clouds. But every picture was different and made with a huge selection of snacks in all the colors. This art project did not only require hard work, creativity and fortitude but also involved a lot of planning and quite the number of trips to the supermarket. Wijinthanasan chose to exhibit the King and Queen’s royal projects in order to honor the celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary, which happened in mid-April. Although this exhibition was a pretty belated commemoration, it still lured many students, families and couples from all over to the festival, as well as other small buzzing ‘friends’ that sensed the sweet scent. Little kids would run off from their parents to look around, dazed from seeing the extraordinary and colorful creations for the first time, and then they would all shout, “Mummy! Mummy! Can I eat it? May I please eat it?” All around parents had to wrestle their children away from the sugary magnets. However, there were also moments when everyone would just peacefully wander and admire the artwork to the soft melody of the live pianist’s calm nocturnes. With the tranquil music, the alluring, chocolaty aroma and the beautiful setting, you could get lost in this small exhibition for hours before realizing that you have not even been to any of the booths yet. Many of the students passed by, took out their cell phones and snapped many photos for memory, knowing that these pieces are only ephemeral. One of the many reasons for this exhibition is to show people, especially art students, how anything can be art: how you can just take something from everyday life and make it beautiful, how beauty does not have to last forever, and also the importance of thinking outside the frame. Wijinthanasan, who is also a professor at Sirapakorn University, used this show as an opportunity to share his passion and originality with other people in the community and also to encourage his students to try out different things. In addition to Wijinthanasan’s canvases, the shop called ‘Catwalk’ also presented its own little art creation, calling it the ‘Rhythm of Taste.’ In the middle of the exhibit, they had about six different types of instruments made purely from icing. The parallels between music and sweets inspired ‘Catwalk’ to participate in this festival. On the sign it said, “The flavors that you taste when you eat different sweets or snacks is the same as the unique sounds you hear from each of the instruments.” With exceptional artwork from both groups, the Sweet Mania Festival was a great success this year. It managed to dazzle, inspire and satisfy people of all ages, from all over Thailand. It was a shame that the pictures were not put out for tasting too.