Eating Art at the Great Edible Art Show

Leeds Indie Food has been a blast, but there were few events I was looking forward to as much as the Great Edible Art Show at The Gallery at Munro House. As soon as I saw the event listing I knew I had to be there – famous works of contemporary art recreated in cake, biscuit and icing by the Tattooed Bakers for our viewing pleasure and then offered up for our eating pleasure; what could be better? I don’t pretend to be any kind of art expert, but in a world where even touching artwork is generally frowned upon if not forbidden, this was clearly something special.

Tutti Frutti at The Gallery

I got off to a bad start when the first eating event, Feed Me Art, sold out ridiculously fast and I missed out on a ticket – a regular occurrence in my life due to a dangerous mix of an unwillingness to commit and just general forgetfulness. You can’t even imagine my relief when I found out the organisers had decided to respond to the event’s obvious popularity by expanding the evening into two separate sessions, allowing twice the people to come and stuff their face with cakey goodness. I immediately bought a ticket to the later session, The Second Slice, and started mentally saving room in my belly…

Edible Art Show menu

Aware that the artworks would be half-eaten by the time I arrived, I ran down to The Gallery on my lunch hour to check out the pieces in all their untouched glory. The line-up was impressive, featuring some of the most well-known pieces from the world of contemporary art. Damien Hirst’s ‘Away From The Flock’ was the most attention-grabbing piece in the room, a real sheep corpse preserved in formaldehyde that had been recreated as a rainbow sponge cake covered in white icing.

Nud Cycladic 14 at Edible Art Show

Sharing the room were Sarah Lucas’ ‘Nud Cycladic 14’ as a vegan lemon sponge cake and Tracey Ermin’s applique blanket ‘No Chance’ reimagined as a huge slab of shortcake with the piece’s patchwork of colours and quotes copied in colourful icing. Grayson Perry’s ‘Mr S*** Sex’ was my personal highlight, an intricately decorated vase made from chocolate and prune fruitcake and covered in printed rice paper. This was my favourite piece just for the detail of the vase; I’d already seen the original and the cake version matched up almost perfectly.

No Chance at Edible Art Show

I headed back to work wondering if the taste of the cakes would match up to the impressive appearances, and I was not disappointed. On arriving at the Gallery in the evening I accepted my free glass of punch and headed straight for ‘Away From The Flock’, which looked even better now that it had been sliced open to reveal the brightly coloured sponge cake on the inside. The cake was served with a side of raspberry jelly, and I felt like I was revisiting my childhood as I tucked in, feeling the E numbers coursing through me even as I swallowed.

Away From The Flock at Edible Art Show

The cake was delicious but super sweet, and even after just one slice I was already aware I’d probably only be able to handle one more. I had to choose carefully. After some back and forth I went for ‘Nud Cycladic 14’, a lemon sponge cake with lemon buttercream. I was more than happy with my choice, although I had to fight the impulse to get some chocolate fruitcake to take away!

Mr S*** Sex at Edible Art Show

The Edible Art Show was originally conceived as a way to promote the real British Art Show being held in Leeds later this year, but I believe the success of Feed Me Art has gone beyond that. I think events like this are invaluable in drawing new enthusiasts to the art world; an art novice myself, I was nonetheless attracted to this event by the novelty value of it and as a result gained tons of new knowledge about a subject that I was previously hazy on at best. It is fun, sociable events like this that make a sometimes intimidating subject accessible, and ensure that our art galleries and museums will be full for generations to come.

Justin Slee’s Avant at The Gallery

This weekend the sun was shining and I had a few spare hours, so I wandered over to Munro House to grab a coffee and check out Justin Slee’s Avant exhibition at the Leeds Gallery. This stunning collection of photos portrays behind-the-scenes moments at Northern Ballet, a project spanning 5 years during which time Slee was given access to shows and rehearsals to observe the dancers and photograph them at work.

Avant at The Gallery

I first heard about the project through an article on The City Talking in which the writer compared the exhibition to the work of Edgar Degas, the Impressionist who dedicated more than half his paintings to studies of dancers. Although the medium is different, I was also struck by the similarities between Degas’ paintings and Slee’s photos; like Degas, Slee makes a study of light, often capturing dancers at the moment their bodies are hit by a shaft of light or making use of shadow to create contrasts of colour.

Justin Slee Avant

However what I found most moving about Slee’s collection was the amazing candour of the shots; the most memorable photos were not those taken during performances but the unguarded moments snapped during rehearsals. Slee captures the dancers in moments of pure focus, so lost in their work they appear to have forgotten his presence, and these are the shots that encapsulate the incredible discipline and commitment that goes into creating the Northern Ballet’s productions.

Justin Slee Avant

The exhibition also reveals the human side of the dancers, an accessible element that lies in stark contrast to the elegant, ethereal beings we see on stage. One photo shows a female dancer taking a break, her face creased with laughter as she sits bent forward with her elbows resting on her knees. My personal favourite depicts what appears to be a warm-up, in which Slee catches a dancer pulling a face at her colleague. These pictures are arrestingly intimate, and it is this intimacy that makes the collection so awe-inspiring.

Justin Slee Avant

I must admit I’ve never paid much attention to ballet; I was taken once by my Grandma as a child but as I’ve grown up my interests turned to literature and drama, and my theatre visits have always been to see plays. Maybe I’ll have to give it another try…