Culinary art: Mixing with the master bakers: Iain Gale meets a pair of gateau sculptors

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The Independent Culture
The image is instantly recognisable. A father holds his newborn baby. As a photographic poster it's the national bestseller. But this is different. The photograph has been rendered in 3D; transformed into a piece of sculpture by little- known artistic duo Greg and Max. 'It has a real vulnerability,' says Greg, and he's not joking. The sculpture is carved from a large piece of madeira cake. Greg and Max are cake sculptors - the Gilbert and George of the patisserie world - and 'Father and Child' is just one of 15 examples of their work which go on view in London next week.

The two embarked on their creative culinary odyssey six years ago, when Greg, a jewellery designer and Max, a trained psychologist, hit on a novel way of combining their two great loves of cooking and art.

'Our first works were commissions,' says Greg. 'We did one for Eartha Kitt with her as the Statue of Liberty and another for the Queen Mother's 90th birthday-covered in 300 sugar butterflies. It took us three hours to set up.' Such attention to detail becomes evident as you do a cakewalk around the sculptures. The graphic detail on a sugar packet made from real sugar belies the artists' lack of formal training. Their recipe for success is based on trial and error, and ingenuity.

'No one ever told us, 'You can't do that'. So we did.' Some of the pieces are now so refined that they move. One, 'Scandal', consists of a bare foot displayed on a cushion alongside a woman's head. Turn a handle and her tongue emerges to lick the naked pedal pusher. The political satire is implicit. 'This is the year of the toe as an object of desire', says Greg. 'Certainly it's satirical. Especially when we wrap a Chelsea scarf around it.'

Other pieces contain a more obviously erotic connotation, which the artists encourage: 'When was the last time you got turned on by a cake?' In one such work a naked male torso, that of Lady Chatterly's lover, is covered with tiny sugar flowers. Perhaps the most disturbing piece though is the cake on which a pig reclines in Dionysian debauchery having his tummy rubbed with suntan oil. 'He's a cartoon pig. His legs are splayed out and an automated hand comes up between them and rubs on the oil. A child would really giggle at it. But there's, well another, erotic side too. It's a reaction you don't usually get from a sponge cake.'

True. It's certainly a long way from Jane Asher. The artists resent such a comparison. 'To compare us to her is like comparing Chanel to Top Shop. These aren't novelties we're doing here. Thomas the Tank Engine doesn't feature.'

So are they serious artists? After all, didn't American Pop master Claes Oldenburg make his name with sculptures of burgers and ice-cream sodas? What's their raisin d'etre?

'We're not saying we're great artists, but a lot of our inspiration comes from Jeff Koons. We love his philosophy. And we've made a cake in homage to the French artists Pierre et Gilles. It's a kitsch wedding cake covered in cherubs and pink tulle.'

Although the artists readily admit to a camp sense of humour, are these more than mere fairy cakes? Is there a hidden agenda in the sponge? 'Everybody will get from them what they want. God forbid we get all serious, but some of the pieces aren't easy.' So far neither the Tate nor Charles Saatchi have expressed an interest, but the artists are ever hopeful. 'Well why not. The sculptures would deteriorate, but fruit cake gets better with age, doesn't it. So in 20 years they could take off the outside and just eat the cake.'

Thomas Neal's, Earlham St, London WC2, 26-30 Oct, 11am- 6pm

(Photograph omitted)