50 Foods in 50 Days

In her latest exhibition, artist CJ Hendry has used felt-tip pens to draw 50 foods in 50 days.

50 Foods in 50 Days

It’s your last day on earth. What would you choose for your final meal? That’s the question that launched artist CJ Hendry’s latest series, 50 foods in 50 days. After reading accounts of inmates’ final days on death row, Hendry was inspired to draw 50 meals on beautiful Hermes plates.

Hendry’s art career began at university when a friend encouraged her to pursue her talent instead of slugging it out doing a degree she had no passion for. To pay for rent and food, Hendry sold her treasured clothes on eBay and made enough cash to get started.

Even with a sold-out exhibition in Sydney last year and a commissioned piece hanging in Kanye West’s home, Hendry is the last to admit she has “made it” as an artist. “I never actually sit back and think, ‘Shit yeah, I’ve made it’. I think I’ve still got a long way to go and I do what I do because I love it and for no other reason.” Her work is popular because of her unique style. She spends hours upon hours shading with felt-tip pens until her images look hyper-real.

The process starts with a photo of her subject, whether it’s a juicy crab, scattered M&Ms or a crispy baguette. Hendry then measures the photo and begins to draw the image using various shading techniques. It can take anywhere from 15 hours to a couple of days to produce the final piece – each have been drawn onto a 75 x 75 centimetre canvas and cost $8800.

“The octopus was probably the most laborious,” she says. “But I think the one that’s going to be the hardest – both technically and in terms of reaching the final stretch – is the last one, which is a plate of cocaine.” Posting each piece on her Instagram and Snapchat every 24 hours in the lead up, Hendry has kept on a strict deadline by isolating herself until the Melbourne exhibition.

“I listen to a lot of audiobooks, maybe a book a day – like Harry Potter, John Grisham’s books, I did Serial in a day, Game of Thrones – something I’m actually very good at is Game of Thrones trivia, if you took me on, I would win,” she says. It’s tough for Hendry to choose a standout. “I like the crab, but I also like the unusual ones, like the Doritos and the M&Ms. I’m a junk-food girl and something about juxtaposing such an elegant plate with something that really shouldn’t be there really appeals to me.”

Even if you have the dollars to dish out for one of her creations, it may already be too late. “The response has been unbelievable,” says Tikos. “Twenty of the pieces sold in one day before she even started drawing them, and 48 of the 50 artworks have all sold. Fourteen went to Hong Kong, four to Singapore and the rest to the US, Australia, UAE and London.” What the duo have showed the art world is you can’t discount the power of good marketing. With Tikos’ reach of 445,000 on Instagram, and Hendry’s 194,000-strong following, her work is being viewed by a far larger number of people than an artist who simply promotes through a gallery with flyers. The exhibition will be a far from ordinary as well. In true Cool Hunter style, Tikos has organised a food pop-up for the duration of the show.

“We have wanted to continue to do things differently. To put an extraordinary talent into the boring, same-old, white-walled art gallery setting just did not make sense to us,” he says. “Her work deserves to be the talk of the town, an event, a happening, a celebration. And because of the subject matter –food on Hermes plates – it made sense to us to create a luxury gourmet food store that will appeal to both art and food lovers.”

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