Art that bears fruit

For one artist, a fruit box contains more than just produce — it shows the personality of farmers and tells their stories.

Sean Rafferty, aka the Cartonographer, began collecting the artwork on boxes after working in fruit and vegetable shops while studying.

His project Cartonography combines the art from cartons into a diorama, as a "cartongraph", and as interactive art that shows viewers where the produce comes from

It is part of Tastes Like Sunshine, an exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane which explores Queensland's food culture.

"It was a simmering interest that became a project and led to a more formal process of collecting the artwork on the boxes," Mr Rafferty said.

"There's a lot of dumpster diving; it's not the most glamorous, and sometimes there's an awkward question to a shop owner.

"The bulk of my collecting happens at the fruit markets and there's a significant amount I collect directly from farmers."

Mr Rafferty said the main piece of the diorama cut from boxes was "part landscape and part market".

"I've been to farming regions with projects in the past, where I drive around meeting farmers and that's most rewarding," he said.

"It's the raison d'être to the collecting process, to meet the farmers and see what they're producing and connect the carton to the place it's from.

"Sometimes there's a direct line between the carton and the farmer, other times it's the representative of the personality of the farmer or the broader community."

Fruit vs vegetables

Mr Rafferty said he was diplomatic when it came to what was better — fruit or vegetables.

"I don't have a favourite carton per se, many of the cartons from far north Queensland include landscapes, colour or humour which are synonymous with that area," he said.

"When you go to somewhere like Shepparton, they [the boxes] become more like coats of arms and farmers there don't characterise their landscapes as much."

He said many people who saw his work told him they had never noticed the artwork on the boxes before.

Mr Rafferty plans to now collect stories from the producers.

"I'm looking to show that each carton is a marker in the land and a way to access someone's story, so I hope over time to build a story into each carton I have."

Telling the story of food

Museum of Brisbane director Renai Grace said the exhibition also engaged many local artist to create new works around Brisbane's abundant food story.

One of the main pieces includes a marshmallow wall created by Brisbane artist Elizabeth Willing where toasted marshmallows are used to create artwork.

"She explores food from all the senses; smell, touch and taste giving visitors that immersive experience," Ms Grace said.

"It's an unusual topic for a museum to look at, but because it's also a broad topic we've spent time working through the themes we wanted to look at including producers, migrant gardens and Indigenous artists.

"We all love food here in Brisbane and we want the exhibition to put smiles on people's faces."

Tastes Like Sunshine opens on August 18.