Don't scoff...

It may be hard to swallow, but who says you have to sculpt in clay? What's wrong with say... jelly? Or cake? John Windsor offers food for thought and answers that most crucial of questions: can you eat it afterwards?

Art that's good enough to eat... Chris Jones's icing sugar, marzipan and fruit-cake evocation of Heaven and Hell, coming soon to the Jason and Rhodes gallery in Mayfair, is just one of four exhibitions of artworks made from food.

In Kendal, Cumbria, you can see a life-size corpse made from yellow jelly that has sprouted a green mould. In Limehouse, east London, there is a giant table and chair made from nearly a quarter of a million sugar cubes (lick it, but don't sit on it) and, in Eastbourne, bread baked in women's underwear.

Why have artists suddenly become gourmands? Lene Bragger, visual arts officer of the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, which is showing Food for Thought, suggests that the Seventies were the arts and crafts decade, the Eighties were keep-fit and that the Nineties are for foodies.

Whether edible art turns you on or turns your stomach seems to depend on your upbringing. Chris Jones, 25, who created Heaven and Hell with 26-year-old Phil Jones (no relation), his co-worker at Jane Asher's Chelsea cake shop, reports that his friends' and relatives' quizzical attitude towards conceptual art seems to soften once they are told it's made of cake.

"People are into cake," he says, "so they don't ask the sort of difficult questions they might ask if the sculpture were made of clay."

But a few of the good people of Cumbria are not so sure about the novel use of good food. "What a waste!" one scoffed.

Other Cumbrians have responded with mouth-watering zeal to The Brewery's invitation to help make the jelly-corpse. It now has extra heads and two pairs of breasts - favourite parts, it seems. There is a heart shape where the genitals should be. To avoid argument, Ms Bragger has classified it female.

The trouble with food is that it is easier to digest than sculpt. New technologies have had to be invented. In Kendal, where four artists' foodworks are on show, local chefs solved the problem of icing that sticks to the rolling-pin: sprinkle cornflower on it. Jones and Jones abandoned royal icing for their fluffy heavenly cloud because it drips. Instead, they used ready-to-roll stuff that is like plasticine. Jelly-corpses demand extra gelatine as a stiffener. As for building furniture from sugar cubes: Sarah Buist and Mia Cavaliero at the Cable Street Gallery, Limehouse, have just the solution - Evostik.

And if you are ever faced with the problem of how to make wearable body casts from toffee - of the sort that Clare Russ's dance ensemble Sweet Sensations, will perspire in, in Kendal on 14 August - the answer is to pour the toffee over moulds made from muslin and glue. That way, you can bake it brittle without it cracking. But we'll know on the night...

Food art is, of course, not just a confection. It is earnestly conceptual. Hermione Allsopp, 25-year-old resident artist at The Brewery, Kendal, who is still boiling up toffee for torsos, is also exhibiting an 8ft-high emaciated female crucified saint, made from icing sugar. She explains that it is about the reversal of moral codes. Before religion was de-popularised, fasting saints were worshipped. Nowadays, it is starved fashion models who get the adulation.

The forthcoming exhibition at the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne - Wait and See (What's for Dinner?) - is the most sociological, exploring the role of food beyond sustenance: culture, identity, manners, humour. Six restaurants will each submit table settings together with their piped music. And a hypnotic film by Lucy Gunning will show her grandmother's ritual attempt to remove the peel of an apple in an unbroken strip.

Chris Jones, an RCA graduate (as is Philip Jones), who also lectures in packaging, graphic design and digital imaging, points out that the damned writhing in his hell are modelled from mashed cake that has actually been through the inferno of an oven. The heavenly icing-sugar cloud does not come into contact with the cake-people: it is insulated from them by their red marzipan prison. Evidently, for the Great Chef, the creation was a piece of cake.

Sarah Buist says that her sugar-cube 4ft-tall table and 6ft 6in chair, titled Sweet Conversation, might evoke the awe and bewilderment felt by a child under a table, eavesdropping on an adult conversation. Apart from that, the gallery's former role as a sweet factory was an inspiration.

In Kendal, dogs and cats carved from vegetables the Chinese way - by Julie Fu, who has spent half her life in Hong Kong, half in Britain - put the point that in the Far East, dogs and cats are eaten.

Exploding bread is in both the Eastbourne and the Kendal exhibitions. In Eastbourne, Harriet Jackman's Body - bread baked in women's underwear - is inspired by the "doughy" quality of obese female flesh. It alludes to women as bread bakers rather than bread winners. Definitely dangerous: Rika Walter-Schill's bursting bread-filled containers, in Kendal, include bottles that have gone bang in the oven. Very nasty they look, too. They explore "growth, breaking new ground and finding new ways of life".

Can you actually eat any of the exhibits? The glass shards embedded in Rika's bottles are not very appetising. But for pounds 1,000 to pounds 1,500 you could carry off the Joneses' Heaven and Hell cake and gorge on it, first picking off the icing sugar wings of the angelic family and their dog, then skewering the damned fruit-cake figures. Smaller cake-characters are promised at pounds 100-pounds 160 and a writhing five-tier iced extravaganza will be pounds 3,000.

Chris Jones says: "I'd be thrilled if people bought them to eat. After all, we always make them in hygienic conditions."

Other food artists have no price tags, but say, "make me an offer". Or rather an order. A carrot cat for starters, please, and the lady will have a bread in underwear, without the trimmings.

`Cooked With Gas', 24 Sept to 18 Oct, Jason & Rhodes, 4 New Burlington Place, London W1 (0171-434 1768). `Food for Thought', to 16 Aug, The Brewery, Highgate, Kendal, Cumbria (01539 725133). `Sweet Conversation', 8 to 31 Aug, Cable Street Gallery, Thames House, 566 Cable Street, London E1 (0171- 790 1309). `Wait and See (What's for Dinner?)', 9 Aug to 9 Nov, Towner Art Gallery, High Street, Eastbourne (01323 417961)

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week