JO Peel will launch her Kid In A Sweet Shop chocolate-city exhibition at the Art Of Protest Gallery in York with a question-and-answer session tomorrow evening from 7pm.

The Sheffield urban landscape artist will be exhibiting 15 new original paintings on canvas and drawings on paper and launching six exclusive hand-pulled, limited-edition screen prints in her first solo show at Craig Humble and Jeff Clark's gallery in Little Stonegate, in her response to the changing world of the confectionary industry, not least in York.

York Press:

Rowntree's Clock Tower, by Jo Peel

In addition to these contemporary views of chocolate cities, since arriving in York on Tuesday, Jo has been working on creating a mural of Rowntree Wharf in household emulsion within Brew York’s beer hall, in Walmgate, and a street art installation of York factory iconography at the Art of Protest that she will reveal at tomorrow's Q &A.

During this year, Jo has painted a series of works presenting "the journey of British chocolate from utopian communities to a globalised driver of stock exchanges around the world". Her paintings and screen prints focus on how chocolate has influenced the cities of York (Terry's and Rowntree), Birmingham (Cadbury) and Bristol (J S Fry) and "how philanthropy expressed through architecture and social planning were overtaken by the bottom-line economics of the late 20th century".

York Press:

Jo Peel at work on her Rowntree Wharf mural in the Beer Hall at Brew York, Walmgate, York

Jo outlines her inspiration: "Over the past nine months, I've been researching the British chocolate industry. Starting in York with Rowntree's and Terry’s and on to Bournville in Birmingham to discover a parallel history steeped in Quaker roots and a philanthropic approach to business." she says. "I was interested with the parallels in the rise of the chocolate industry and the rise of capitalism, as chocolate has often been described as 'the perfect drug for capitalism'.

"The slow erosion of ideals in favour of profit were finalised when the Cadbury business was bought by Kraft, and now Mondelez, in a hostile takeover. Rowntree [Mackintosh] and Terry’s are also owned by Nestle and Mondelez respectively."

York Press:

Jo Peel's Terry's painting

Summing up her latest project, which followed Jo's artistic response to the steel cities of Sheffield and Pittsburgh, she says: "I came to this project with no knowledge of the chocolate industry and wanted to do all the research off my own bat, rather than being influenced by the brands offering site tours. So I went around on my own and I was particularly struck by the parallels between York and Birmingham.

"As soon as you look back into the origins of the sugar trade and chocolate industry, it's a massive story, so I narrowed it down, as I've always been interested in how how we live today is affected by the past."

From site visits and photographs, Jo has created a body of work that documents the buildings as they stand now. In York, for example, the main Terry's chocolate factory, off Bishopthorpe Road, is undergoing conversion into apartments; the former principal Rowntree factory building in distinctive red brick, off Haxby Road, is soon to follow suit.

York Press:

Mural taking shape: Jo Peel painting at Brew York

PTaking sh"It really struck me how visual the legacy of the chocolate industry was at the heart of these cities," says Jo. "Decisions taken were influenced by their Quaker ideals with investment in the communities where their workers lived and worked. The buildings and community projects left over by chocolate give us an alternative visual record on this time. Through the remaining, and changing, architecture, 150 years of industrialisation and de-industrialisation is the landscape for all that see it today.”

In a way, says Jo, her work is documentary in style. "But I take people out of the paintings and drawings to give them a timelessness, but then the criteria for reading 'time' in them are the little details, things like CCTV cameras and the type of fencing," she says.

York Press:

Jo Peel's poster for her Kid In A Sweet Shop exhibition at the Art Of Protest Gallery in York

"More broadly, images that are creeping into my work are the urban fight with nature, which is the biggest fight of all, as cities change, and I'm looking at how that manifests itself."

Craig Humble, Art of Protest's co-founder, says: "The exhibition reminds us of one of the first principles of landscape painting, a nostalgia for what is gone. If Constable was reacting to the Industrial Revolution and land enclosure’s effect on the working people of the day, I feel Jo Peel is doing something similar with this collection.

"The buildings and views Jo selects remind us of something that is gone. Once the employers were at the heart of shaping the community and influencing their workers values. This exhibition, for me, isn’t about whether things are better or worse at these two points as hindsight can sometimes chocolate coat the past as maybe Constable did; but by documenting the changes in contemporary paintings, Jo has created a collection tied to our society’s evolution from manufacturing to consuming. It may also be asking us how business is now is aspiring toward a utopia; and who will leave a legacies as potent as the Rowntree’s or Cadbury’s of the 19th century.”

York Press:

Jo Peel's painting of the Rowntree's factory building

Fellow co-founder Jeff Clark concludes: "We’ve had Jo’s work in the gallery since this time last year and been overwhelmed with the warm reception people have had for her alternative views of the world we live in. She does our favourite thing of making us look and reassess what is beautiful and worthy of being a subject for painting.

"Jo is well known as a street artist and animator, with these aspects of her work displayed from Cambodia to London and from Pittsburgh to Sheffield. We're really grateful and proud to work with Jo while she has been looking at some of York’s other histories and how that echoes through the country via a history of chocolate and sugar."

Jo Peel's Kid In A Sweet Shop exhibition runs at the Art Of Protest Gallery, Little Stonegate, York, until November 25. Peel's hand-pulled screen prints are also available via