We considered saying it was 'a sweet idea' with reckless use of sugar-related terms like 'raw' and 'unrefined' - but then realised how inappropriate these terms are for new art work that is none of the above. Powerful, considered and carefully constructed are more apt words.
London-born, New York based artist Satch Hoyt has created several sculptures using only sugar for the City of London Festival. Two sugar slave ships are on display in the Museum in Docklands, a very significant place for an artwork created specifically to mark the 200 years since the abolition of slavery. It would be hard to forget or underestimate the importance of this foodstuff and the location of the museum in any event marking the abolition of slavery; the Museum in Docklands is
a former warehouse, erected on the North Quay by the West India Dock Company to store sugar, rum and coffee - the produce of the slave plantations of the Caribbean. Between the opening of the West India Dock in 1802 and the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807, records show that 77 ships sailed from the Dock to west Africa where they purchased 24,962 enslaved Africans who were transported to the Americas and sold to work on the plantations.
The two slave ships made of boiled and sculpted jaggery* sugar stand at the entrance of the museum and offer visitors the chance to reflect on the history of the site they stand in.
In St Paul's Cathedral, Hoyt has further artworks made entirely of sugar cubes. Life-size portraits of important black figures in British history are on display in free-standing ovals; the painted sugar cubes create a pixellated effect and viewers need to stand back to fully appreciate the image.
* Jaggery sugar is also known as 'medicinal sugar' and is a traditional unrefined whole sugar. It is particularly rich in minerals and was used by doctors for various ailments and continues to be used in home remedies.
Satch Hoyt: For Love of Sugar at St Paul's Cathedral and the Museum in Docklands, until 12 July. For more information, go to the City of London Festival website here.