In the current climate of food oriented everything, and chef-as-rock-star mentality, Les Mason’s designs offer a timely reminder to the art of food, more so than the art of celebrity.
Mason’s work on Australia’s first magazine devoted entirely to food and wine has cemented him in local design folklore. An American ex-pat, he was the creative force behind the publication's seminal years from 1966 to 1979. Originally a manager and man of the sea, Mason took to art in the late 50s, and after a brief stint at an American advertising agency, made the move south to head up the creative side of the magazine.
A jack-of-all-trades, Mason practiced sculpture, painting and photography in his spare time. All of which he employed in his work on Epicurean, often including pieces from his fine art practice in the magazine.
The current exhibition at The Narrows, of Mason’s 77 issues as creative director, illustrate a somewhat alien approach to the contemporary ‘laws’ of design for both magazines and food. An array of masthead typefaces, locations and colours matched with a sculptural abstracted approach to food photography and illustration offers a glimpse to a time of absolute social and artistic freedom. Each display case – if not each issue – demonstrates a new approach and new thinking to the presentation of not only food and wine but a magazine in general.
From Dali–esque still-lifes, to bold graphic illustrations that look as contemporary now as they did 40 years ago, the continued re-invention viewed enmasse is a crash course in an array of design approaches, principles and styles. Far from an exercise in design self-gratification, Mason’s broad visual tone opens what could be a niche design-nerd excursion to an accessible, widely appealing show.
Les Mason, Epicurean Magazine 1966–1979 runs until to November 13 at The Narrows.