• When your morning espresso becomes 'express-o'. (Giulia Bernardelli)Source: Giulia Bernardelli
For self-taught Italian painter Giulia Bernardelli, a white tabletop spells a blank canvas for artworks created using black coffee. From her kitchen in the northern city of Mantua, she creates whimsical scenes whose characters appear to have materialised from the brews all by themselves, sharing each creation via Instagram.
Fringe Foodies

3 Jun 2016 - 11:20 AM  UPDATED 6 Jun 2016 - 11:20 AM

How did you start to paint with coffee?

I started by chance, less than a year ago. I accidentally knocked over a cup of coffee and suddenly a new world appeared, made of beautiful shades, each one different from the other. In the photos I take of my paintings, I try to catch the magic of a moment, as if the coffee created a story by toppling over. I also drink a lot of coffee! Being Italian, I'm used to drinking an espresso at the bar and from the Moka at home.

How does painting with coffee influence your pieces?

It’s very similar to painting with watercolours, but the difficulty lies in taking the final photo before the various nuances dissolve. To create a good picture, you have to know the material that’s used.

I think my experience with coffee comes from a personal perspective on the world, the everyday-ness of art understood as beauty.

Have you always had a strong affinity for food?

In my family, food has always been the protagonist – more than just a reason to meet at the table. Every Christmas, my mum would prepare large baskets of sweets to give away, with beautiful things like gingerbread houses. For sure, the care she put into making those has influenced me a lot, especially in the sense of artistic composition. The creation of my work is born by chance in my kitchen, and it’s the place where I work best. But I think my experience with coffee comes from a personal perspective on the world, the everyday-ness of art understood as beauty.

Is there a particular theme or idea you like to convey through your artworks?

I love spontaneity and the ephemeral. I like the feeling that my works are created by accident, from spilled coffee, as if it were magic. I try to illustrate simple subjects but with effect, creating characters who I see in newspapers or on the Internet. I’m very attracted to the complexity and sophistication of detail, but often the subjects are the simplest things.

What’s your creative background?

I’ve always been interested in art – I grew up in my dad’s bookshop and art gallery, I studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna and I’m currently employed at a museum, where I work on projects for children. In Bologna, I took a specialized course for the teaching of art, but I’ve never studied artistic techniques. I’m self-taught, and you can see that through the many uncertainties of my works. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I’ve never been directed towards a particular style, but that I found my own course naturally.

You’ve also tried out creating pieces using tomato passata, popcorn and crushed strawberries. What do you enjoy about working with edible materials?

I decided to replace the paintbrush with what nature offered, such as leaves, fruit skins, food. All these elements feature different colours and textures. I like the idea of ​​working with everyday materials. Everything that I need is around me, if I look carefully.

This piece is all radish.

How do you approach each new piece?

I’ve always been fascinated by colours, compositions, details, and through practice have acquired good manual skills. Most of my creations are temporary – they’re eaten and they therefore disappear. This is an essential feature of my work. After I create an artwork, I take a picture, and this becomes the perfect end result. This is how the artwork is captured at its best, in the moment of final wonder. What I do is nothing but the product of a game – a curious look, a constant exploration.


Creative with chocolate spread.

Photography by Giulia Bernardelli (@bernulia)


Fringe Foodies Editor Alecia Wood

In our monthly blog, Fringe Foodies, we interview creatives, artists, designers, writers and poets about their affinity with all things edible. From the printed page to sculptures and soundwaves, we discover the myriad ways food can be created, celebrated and consumed.