When we first saw Kyle Bean’s artworks, we thought they were renders. We were so convinced, that we even reached out to him and referred to them as such, which is when the London-based creative then told me I was wrong. They are in fact, photographs. But photographs that are so perfectly lit under studio lights, and focused on such crisp goods, they really could be renders. What Kyle really does, is construct well-known food dishes out of paper in a mind-boggling construction that combines paper-craft skills and photography.
Born on the south coast of England, Kyle studied illustration at the University of Brighton. Growing up, Kyle was a huge Lego fan (we can see hints of this in the modular design of his paper constructions) but later become more interested in painting and drawing as opposed to model making. During uni, he landed on his signature mode of making, responding to briefs using limited resources and everyday materials – which is what led him to paper. “Having certain limitations to equipment while I was a student actually helped me focus my attention on using easy to find materials and processes,” he tells us. All he needed was a sharp blade, a cutting mat and some paper to get the creative juices flowing; a modest set of materials that haven’t changed much to this day.
The subject of his works tends to tell fun and succinct stories through a set of punchily photographed compositions. In his latest series, Mixed Media Meals, he lists the recipes for a number of delicious dishes using paper and other objects found around the house. A burger, smashed avocado on toast, sushi, tofu ramen, fish tacos, lasagne, pad Thai, are just a few of the dishes given the Kyle treatment. The series came about during the UK lockdown in the spring of 2020. “I didn’t have much commissioned work to be getting on with at the time so I was looking for inspiration for a personal project,” he says. At home, he spent much of his time cooking as a means of comfort and distraction from the bleakness of the outside world.
It was also a time of resourcefulness when everyone at home had to be creative with what they had around them. So when Kyle embarked on some spring cleaning, he rediscovered a bunch of things that could be considered “useful”. The two elements came together and Kyle designed a brief for himself where he could give a purpose to as many household objects as possible and keep creative at the same time. “I enjoyed coming up with food ideas to cook and then looking at all my studio materials thinking what could translate into an ideal mushroom or perfect lasagne pasta sheet,” he adds. In the end, he found a way to include objects as obscure as a collection of doorknobs, water balloons, various matchsticks and more. And importantly, “this bizarre personal challenge kept a smile on my face throughout this time in 2020.”
Graphic, clean and witty, the playful project is simple yet effective. The viewer can’t help but scour each image to uncover what ingenious material Kyle has used to denote a squeeze of mayonnaise or a sprinkle of pepper. In case you were wondering, he used white string and also tiny bits of chopped up brown paper. Elsewhere, he used wooden beads attached with green gardening wire to create cherry tomatoes, erasers as rubbery blocks of halloumi, a cut-up car washing sponge as cheese, and a combination of felt, styrofoam and lime green pencils for the sushi.
Having worked mostly alone for the past couple of years, Kyle is looking forward to collaborating with other people again soon. What’s to look forward to? Well, Kyle has been working on an exciting soon-to-be-revealed installation project and also has a couple more meals in mind for Mixed Media Meals. The artist finally goes on to say: “The beauty of the project is that I can dip back into it whenever I feel like it and it gives me extra incentive to be adventurous in the kitchen too, which isn’t a bad thing in my book!”
Kyle Bean: Sushi (Copyright © Kyle Bean, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.