Master Chocolatier, WACS Global Master Chef, Culinary Olympics winner and sculptor, Gerhard Petzl has made a name for himself with his awe-inspiring chocolate sculptures. Writer Jasmine Greene talked sculpture with this months Choc God.
What is your background in the arts? Were you always interested in sculpting?
As I have always been drawing and painting from my early childhood as an Austrian, I have always been committed to art through music, galleries or looking at historical buildings or places. After 15 years of working in my profession, I decided to intensify my studies in the field of art and graduated with a diploma of ‘Master Classes of Art & Design’, section ‘Sculpturing’, in 2005. In the beginning I tried it with music but my real passion arose after I discovered creating 3-dimensional objects in various materials.
Why did you choose chocolate as a medium? What is it about this material that drew you to it?
As a Master Pastry Chef and Master Chocolatier, I usually work internationally as a Pastry Consultant which includes several project requests, doing chocolate-related artworks and chocolate sculptures for TV productions, hotels, shows, fairs and museums. By the way, I am currently holding the record of the ‘World’s Largest Chocolate Santa Claus’ which was 3.65 meters tall and which I modeled during a business assignment in Germany in 2005. It took me 3 days and nights, I lost 4 kilos of body weight during that time when I only slept 6 hours in 3 days. Chocolate has always been pushing me to the limit. The medium ‘chocolate’ is much more than a sum of ingredients, chocolate is the ‘food of the goddesses’ and I always show my appreciation of this incredibly versatile and mysterious material I am working with.
How long have you been working with chocolate? Do you find something new about it each time you work with it or has working with it gotten easier over time?
During roughly 20 years of chocolate shows I have identified so many different faces of chocolate – which even nowadays makes me feel like I was still an apprentice regarding this material. Every time I am trying out something new, I think of another new field and combine different working techniques as needed. Jumping between the borders of being a professional Pastry Chef, an artist and a development researcher, I am motivating myself of opening the doors showing the world how chocolate can be: beautiful and unexpectedly pretty but also stressful at the same time. And yes, after all those years of working with it, I know the limitations of the material pretty well – which still does not mean that there are no surprises anymore.
Which aspect of your chocolate art do you find most challenging (body art, chocolate paintings or sculptures) and why?
Every field, every section of chocolate art has its own beauty, advantages, opportunities, durability and limits. Doing body art is energy-intense because working an hour on a human, warm or cooler skin, with movements up and down through breathing of the model, is not that easy like it seems to be. After finishing this kind of artwork, it only stays for additional 10 minutes on the model’s skin – just for a photo shooting – and then it will be gone forever. What remains for lifetime, are the memory and the photographer’s pictures of a sweet and beautiful moment. Making sculptures gives me totally different possibilities and they last 10 years or longer, depending on where and under which conditions they are stored.
What inspires you to create these pieces of work?
Different countries, cultures and people, impressive nature but also buildings (like temples). Even listening to an unknown strange language or the movements of a bird may create ideas for a future sculpture or picture.
Chocolate is a material that will eventually degrade over time. As an artist, how do you feel that the lifespan of your work, unlike actual marble sculptures, oil paintings, etc., is ephemeral?
In the art scene one often hears that the value of an object of art depends on the choice of material. I do not agree to this. The real value can only be in the beauty of the moment. We are not living in the past or in the future, we are living now. Sometimes, after completion of some chocolate piece of art, I even melt down the sculpture again because being the creator and the destroyer is just showing the life cycle of everything and every person, growing, being, dying – just on a compressed time schedule. Whenever somebody looks at my sculptures or artworks, he/she should enjoy the beauty of the moment and realize what happens during that one second in his/her brain while looking at it for the first time. If you think about this, you are on the best way to find out more about yourself.