Human desire is a sticky and tricky thing—and what we crave isn't always good for us. Or so argues Australian-born and Berlin-based artist Joseph Marr, whose erotic sugar sculptures reference the spirituality of Hinduism and the eroticism of Helmut Newton.
When Marr relocated to Berlin as a painter in 2009, he could never have imagined how the city's artistic energy would revolutionise his practice. Consumed by the intensity of his new surroundings, he soon shifted his medium entirely from traditional painting into the originality of sugar sculptures. "I was used to being in this really romantic painting environment with paintings on the walls and the smell of paint; that old school type studio. But when I came to Berlin, it all shifted—kind of like a rebirth. I was suddenly more interested in how everyone else saw the world. And I tried to make things that made sense for them, instead of something deep and personal about me," he tells Creators.
For Marr, it's sugar's relatability that makes it an effective medium. "You know, sugar is something everyone feels close to. They eat it and they have it in their cupboard; it is not an abstract material, like marble, for example," he says. "I like that it's something familiar because whenever someone sees a sculpture of mine, they know what it is and they want to touch it—they can come into the work."
Since 2009, Marr has pulled members of the public in to enjoy three of his most prominent sugar works, including a 9-metre long erotic sugar freeze in the lower level bar of Berlin's infamous Berghain nightclub. Together replicates an Ancient Greek freeze as it tells a love story that stands as a culmination of the many experiences that happen within Berghain's wild yet passionate weekends. The 250kg cola-flavoured sculpture tells the story of a perfect human connection at the club: one that starts with hardcore sex and trails into blissful love.
But just how does a 250kg sugar sculpture survive in a space where sweat literally drips from the ceiling? Marr's specially formulated lacquer resin that protects the sugar from humidity is just one component to the very tricky process of his unique sculpting. To begin, Marr sources a subject he feels embodies his ideas. Next, he 3D scans them, turns the scans into positive prints which he can make a mould out of, and pours "very very hot sugar, basic food colouring and candy flavours" to be left to cool.
It's the artistic energy of this process that sees Marr produce his ongoing Desire is a Trap sugar series; one that closely references the eroticism of Helmut Newton as Marr sweetly sculpts the female form in all its empowerment, strength and raw glory. Within the series one can also find a poetic reference to Hinduism. "There is this great Hindu text that says 'desire is a trap, desire is the creator, desire is the destroyer and to live without desire is to be liberated' and I wanted to make sculptures that reflect this. When you look at my sugar sculptures, you feel like 'If I ate that, that would make me sick and if I touched it, I would get stuck to it and I couldn't let it go.' I want to make an experience…of what it's like to be really trapped in your desire," he says.
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