Of chocolate, I have long been an aficionado of some might say. Some might say an addict. Either way, I have been longtime in a love affair with the stuff since I was a little boy. I used to run home from school so I could keep my bus fare and spend it on chocolate bars, boxes of chocolate that were planted in school desks when I didn’t have the confidence to approach affections of my teenage desire… The only way I could communicate was through surreptitious planting of boxes of chocolates in the old wooden desks before everyone arrived at school, before disappearing, only to reappear once everyone had already arrived in class, exonerating myself of all suspicion. Which was a pretty useless campaign, in retrospect. Unwittingly, I had become my own “Man in Black”, the sensual and sexy stalker, who breaks and enters and leaves chocolates and a soft, wicked whisper before leaving through a window, into the night…
I made my first fortunes selling chocolate bars from these ‘school runs’ and saving enough pennies to create my own tuck shop, before my school saw my business model and seized it for themselves.
Chocolate is a fascinating medium, even just as a culinary exploration. We have such a rich and diverse relationship with chocolate, some based on science, some on mythology, media misinformation and mostly based simply upon how it makes us feel.
Chocolate can cause bad skin, diabetes and make us fat… For some it’s a guilty pleasure – For others, it makes us feel happy, sensual, even sexy.. The science behind chocolate is that it is strong with theobromine, a chemical that mimics the molecules that give us feelings of love and euphoria and full of antioxidants and polyphenols and healthy fatty acids that have a range of medicinal benefits.
The advertising behind chocolate taps into our carnal, instinctual desires, and sex appeal can’t be denied to how we’re seduced into the allure of chocolate, before the aroma opens up our olfactory and nasal passageways, before it even begins to melt on our lips… Seeing the messages that could be incepted into chocolate as a carrier for another purpose, in this instance, marketing and psychological manipulation, along with having such a strong personal relationship with it, fascinated me in pondering how such a thing, which is simply a food, could so powerfully and successfully transcend taste. However, if you know your history, you will understand that in the ancient Mesoamerican origins of cacao and it’s path to its many current day forms, that chocolate was much more than just a food and transcending taste from its very discovery.
Much is lost in the path for knowledge and monopolisation and most of our discoveries might actually be rediscoveries that have been forgotten, or intentionally buried to be replaced with models with a sole purpose of finance and consolidation of resources.
It is undeniable that this is the face of chocolate in this current time, and the entire Cacao industry is blighted with horror stories that are all too real – child exploitation and slavery on plantations. Child and human trafficking that sees these slaves or ‘workers’ sold on to other parts of the human black market, and one can only guess with a small stretch of the imagination to think where these poor human beings might end up.
I chose chocolate to use as a medium, as I had a stall in the University of Nottingham, using baked and edible chocolate creations to raise money and awareness for Meningitis UK, and I boasted that my “Chocolate Experience” would take you to ‘Chocolate Nirvana’ and I encouraged people to sit, relax, and enjoy their experience, while being serenaded by sounds of Eastern and African cultural meditative music, fused with modern chilled electronica, to immerse my subjects in a fully multisensory experience. It was only after that they had decided to come back to the real world, that I’d ask for a price, and that was on a ‘Pay as You Feel’ basis. I’m proud to say that my fundraising efforts helped to raise a lot of money as a one man team for this charity. The only thing missing was the visual display, and I envisioned Ganesh, the Prince Siddharta in his moment of enlightenment becoming Buddha, and other spiritual representations or deities at the stall in painting on canvas, in the colours of chocolate or in chocolate itself, as to my knowlegde, nobody had ever done this before.
Life and university became busy and before I knew it, I had to say goodbye to my stall and focus on my academic pursuits. It was not for another year, when I had moved to Leeds, and was part of a much more creative family, that I was again inspired to this unfinished idea.
How could I create an experience where chocolate truly transcends taste, but seeps into the body and the mind without even having to be ingested? It is oft said that mortal things can be immortalised in art. I believe that one of the reasons that life and experience are so beautiful, is because if we are aware of the fragility and mortality of these things, then we cherish them for every moment of the experience, as we know that these things won’t be around forever, or for very long when you put it into a bigger context. All experience must end, and to be part of these experiences is a blessing and is beautiful.
I choose chocolate as my medium to explore the immortal and to explore dichotomies and juxtapositions in our paradigms of spirituality, the immortal and our own mortality and how these all relate. This is the essence of my first collection, and I like to play with many facets and layers, that can be viewed or interacted with on a number of sometimes superficial, but somewhat, deeper levels. Both the microcosm and the macrocosm influence my expression through my paintings and I hope to bring an awareness to the fractalisation of concepts that bind us all and that can sometimes seem like differences, but if you zoom in enough to the medium, subject matter, what you see, and how it makes you think, then you might find repeating, self-replicating and fascinating places that might give you answers, but might show you the question.
What can chocolate be now to you? And what can you do to expand your mind so that others might do so too?
And why should a paradigm or accepted view of anything be taken as gospel? We and what we interact with are capable of anything with faith, imagination and support.
Especially yourself – it’s where you find true faith and the real answers.