Perfume as Practice began as a hunch; can the craft of perfumery, if approached from a contemporary art standpoint, accommodate portraiture? If so, how? What would the process be?
Chiefly, Perfume as Practice seeks to create portraits of other artists. This is achieved through an established process that poses the question ‘why do you make art?’ Then, through interpretation, intuition and investigation, relevant oils are combined in order to achieve a fragrance that captures the artists’ persona, based on the response received.
This process raises questions of identity, gives artists a cathartic means of enforcing their creative processes and highlights the capacity scent has for communicating beyond its preconceptions. This last point is important as subverting and challenging preconceived notions and providing alternatives is vital to my creative output: I believe it can drive change, provide agency and provide a positive and constructive means of forming relationships.
This blog provides a means to highlight the possibilities of scent; describes past, present and future olfactive endeavours and provides a useful and cathartic platform to externalise some thoughts.
I am still processing all of my olfactory activity from the end September until now. It’s been a period of extreme intensity, which has seen me deliver a residency, a solo show, two group shows and 5 workshops around the UK within a 7 week time frame. As you might expect this will take time to evaluate, but doing so will be important as there are certainly things I’d do differently should a similar opportunity arise.
No doubt I’ll blog about such an evaluation on here before the end of the year. but right now I just want to relax and think about how my most recent perfume making workshop at Abbey House Museum went.
You see, I approached this workshop slightly differently. As my practice has veered more towards creating oil based fragrances, I thought it appropriate to begin teaching oil based perfumery. Previously my workshops had taught alcohol based perfumery.
I feel oil perfumes are richer and more opulent than their alcohol based counterparts. Plus participants can take a complete perfume home on the day instead of having to add water later on. Not to mention the fact that application of oil perfumes is a more personal experience; which directly references my own thought process when designing perfume portraits.
On the face of it this may seem small, but it highlights a change going forward as I seek to interweave my workshops with my exhibitions, allowing them to more directly reference each other. I think this is important for reinforcing my role as a fine art perfumer as it shines a light on my own processes.
Anyway, all of this rambling is really just delaying the inevitable – that being how to digest the aforementioned last 7 weeks. It will be a big task, but hopefully I’ll have done it by the end of the week. Here goes!
So a funny thing happened to me the other day, when I was at Surface Gallery, in my exhibition space, preparing for my perfume making workshop (which went brilliantly, by the way.) I chanced upon two visitors to my exhibition drawing my work: Looking intently at the paintings I created to accompany the perfumes, then drawing them and making annotated notes.
This post is not so much about the drawings themselves, but how the situation made me feel. Although honestly I didn’t give it much thought in the immediate aftermath as I was busy preparing my workshop. But having had time to reflect it was actually a somewhat heartening experience. I feel it somehow legitimises my creative output as bearing witness to such a direct consideration of my work revealed its affecting qualities, and how it can be utilised for learning.
It also reminded me of school, when our art classes often consisted of having to sketch paintings created by real artists in order to learn the basics. I suppose the roles are now reversed to an extent. Yet despite being very much a professional artist, that feeling of being a ‘real artist’ still eludes me. Maybe it always will, maybe it’s the same for everyone, or maybe experiences such as this count towards achieving such a feeling. Either way I feel humbled and happy about the whole thing.
Perfume as Practice continues at Surface Gallery, Nottingham until Saturday 18th November.
Last Friday saw the opening of Perfume as Practice AW17 – my solo show at Surface Gallery, Nottingham, which houses 20 perfume portraits and a series of paintings. The perfumes have been achieved through a process that begins by asking artists the question ‘why do you make art?’ The response received goes through an established method of intuition, interpretation and investigation, allowing me to combine relevant and meaningful fragrance oils that capture the essence of each individual artist.
The perfumes and paintings correspond to each other, and have been developed under the overarching theme of ‘Constellations.’ I theme my perfume shows as a means of aping fashion industry standards of bringing out seasonal themed collections.
I chose ‘Constellations’ as a theme because I believe there are parallels to astronomy and fragrance; both of them possess a degree of intangibility that isn’t fully understood. We can’t fully contemplate how our nose reads scent and we can’t fully contemplate our position within the universe, so I theorised that if we placed both notions together we may be able to develop a more considered and more personal understanding of both. Placing astronomy within the context of fragrance allows you to contemplate it from a more personal and domestic standpoint, while placing fragrance within the context of astronomy reveals it’s endless possibilities.
Furthermore, each fragrance has been placed under a painted representation of a constellation. There are five in total, each symbolising certain behaviours, desires and principles and that drive creative endeavour. The aim was to reveal connections between sets of artists and uncover different modes of creative desires. That was the initial idea anyway.
And it’s an idea which seems to have engaged the local audience; the exhibition has been very well received. It’s interesting to showing my work to an unacquainted audience with no preconceptions of me, and their response feels rather heartening, reinforcing my position as an artist using scent as a viable means of communication.
Perfume as Practice AW17 is showing at Surface Gallery until 18th November.
Oh, how I wish for just a few days to decompress and evaluate this month’s creative endeavours; to get to grips with the successes and failures of my Orchard Square residency; to recover from a weekend of installing and taking down an exhibition at Harrington Mill Studios in Long Eaton; to approach my forthcoming shows with a clear headspace; to think about next year and applying for relevant funding; to… …
Ok, and breathe! Yes, it has been a busy month but I must afford the time to explain that I will be running my 3rd Perfume as Practice solo show in Nottingham from this Friday
Perfume as Practice will see 20 themed perfumes on display – each a portrait of another artist. I will be on hand to provide insight into my approach to perfume making, and there’ll be refreshments available. I hope you can join me for a fun and fragrant evening!
October will see me utilise this blog for documenting, describing and assessing my Orchard Square artist’s residency. We’re just over a week in and I feel as though I have began to assert my creative integrity within the space.
It has become clear that my audience doesn’t initially expect to have a perfume portrait made for them in situ when they enter the space. And as such, are not often able to afford the time necessary for me to complete one. That said, they do often fully engage with the perfumes on display as well as my unique approach and position within perfumery and contemporary art. Everyone seems to ‘get it’ instantly; Reaffirming my belief that perfume holds a viable and valuable position within contemporary art both as a means of communication and as a medium that can be utilised.
As we approach the final weeks of the residency it’s clear that, although footfall and overall attendance will not be huge, there is a gentle momentum that warrants repeat visits. So I am still optimistic and motivated going forward.