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.
Plague for Plague’s Sake – my series of videos that looks at how to recreate the dubious plague cures from history using the art of perfumery, Is in it’s 5th week. As such, I can’t think of a more appropriate time to stop and look at the series so far. What is working well and what isn’t? What have I learnt from making the videos? And how engaging is it to an audience?
Plague for Plague’s Sake (or PFPS, as the cool kids are calling it) was conceived in response to the coronavirus pandemic; both in terms of content and in how it presents my practice. Previously, my work relied on a great deal of physical interaction, with audiences picking up bottles and sampling what my perfumes had to offer. Here, I am doing the sampling for them; smelling the fragrances I make in situ whilst attempting to describe them. This is something that doesn’t come instinctively as normally I’d let my audience conjure their own descriptions; which are no doubt based on their own memories, thoughts and experiences, such is the evocative power of scent in relation to memory. As such, I have been rather objective in describing the scents I am making in previous episodes as I try to adapt to this way of presenting perfume. I feel I can afford to be a little more lyrical and personal in future episodes, as this will hopefully allow audiences to relate and engage a little deeper. It will come with time and experience.
Creating Plague for Plague’s Sake has given me insight into the various perils and complexities of video making; from scripts and editing to methods of uploading online. This is something I feel I have adapted to with a certain intuition; though it is, of course, improving all the time. Each episode seems to throw up an unique problem; from microphones picking up ambient sound to formatting problems with Youtube and glare on camera lenses. the whole project has certainly given me a new-found appreciation for filmmakers!
The content of Plague for Plague’s Sake looks at scent in relation to history, medicine and illness, and aims to reveal how perfume can be considered away from it’s preconceptions. To that end, I feel the videos are successful and translate to a fun and informal learning experience. That said, I feel future scripts could provide further detail about the individual scents I am using.
I do feel as though Plague for Plague’s Sake is providing me with skills that I can transfer to other modes of creative activity. Particularity with regard to workshops and how I vocally interact with an audience. Speaking of which, my workshops are set to commence again in October. Though I still intend to create Plague for Plague’s Sake videos for the foreseeable future, so both those strands of creative endeavour should compliment each other nicely.
All of my Plague for Plague’s sake episodes can be found here. Enjoy!
As I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, it’s been a rather tricky few months. One thing that has been absent during the coronavirus pandemic is the need to plan, create and organise ahead of exhibitions, and it is something I have missed more than I thought I would. When you’re in the midst of juggling 3 exhibitions at once while attempting to create work to a high standard, the idea of time off seems luxurious. Yet when such time off is thrust upon you, it’s disarming. I’m sure many of you have endured similar experiences.
However, happily the times are somewhat changing. For while hosting exhibitions within the next few months still isn’t viable, I can at least begin planning for 2021. I have already been in touch with a few art galleries and spaces concerning exhibitions, events and workshops, and I can confirm that I will be taking part in ArtWaves festival, Bridlington, on 6th and 7th March.
ArtWaves is will take over Bridlington’s signature venue Bridlington Spa and further afield for its sixth year on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 March with an additional fringe programme running from Monday 1 March. It’s is set to be the biggest visual art showcase yet, bringing traditional, digital, contemporary and urban art through a vibrant programme curated for all; from the experienced artist to those simply looking to get creative.
The programme will see the highly anticipated return of artists from previous ArtWaves alongside an elective mix of new artists to create the festival line up. There will be demonstrations from award winning artists, masterclasses, workshops, installations, live street art, an open air painting competition and much more.
And what of my contribution to the festival? Well, I want to combine narrative, play and nostalgia to create perfumes in situ based on the stories people tell me, which can then be taken home as a ‘scented souvenir’. The interaction will begin with participants throwing picture dice, then telling me a story about Bridlington based on what is presented on the dice. The aim is to reveal a playful, inclusive side to perfumery and it’s ability to tell stories. It should be a rather fun way of developing Perfume as Practice as a project on the whole.
The second episode of ‘Plague for Plague’s Sake’, which is available to watch here, sees me use the word ‘abracadabra’ to ward off unhealthy spirits.
This video was created at the same time as the first episode. As such, similar problems with the sound quality persist. However as someone only recently getting to grips with video I dare say this kind of technicality is all part of the learning process. That said, I hope that future Plague for Plague’s Sake videos will see me iron out the teething troubles I have had over the first two episodes.
As an artist utilising perfume in my work one thing I have learned during lockdown is that scent doesn’t translate particularly well over Zoom! That’s why I have created a series of videos that re-imagine dubious historical plague cures using perfumery. Here is the first episode, which looks at the magical healing powers of rose. Enjoy responsibly!
Last week a commission I was working on was cancelled due to covid19. Curiously it’s been the first such cancellation, despite the hold coronavirus has had on us over the last 5 months. I feel somewhat behind the curve in harbouring thoughts of dejection and anguish that compliments a covid cancellation, which is tied to both professional and financial prospects. Though saying that I am undeterred. I am aware that, all things considered, I am in a fortuitous financial, professional and medical position compared to others. Additionally, many of my forthcoming projects have be postponed rather than cancelled, so I can still work on them. Do I feel frustrated and disarmed by covid19? Yes. But at least I’m alive.
The commission was to design a scented experience around an exhibition, and as such the cancellation was not altogether unexpected, due to the inherently tactile and interactive nature of scent within a gallery context. Indeed, over the past months I have been thinking of ways to stage exhibition, events and workshops in a safe and appropriate manner without compromising my work, which often relies on direct interaction. Aside from producing videos (which I will, eventually, I promise!) ideas have been thin on the ground. Looking at the history of hygiene within a contemporary art context seems appropriate, with hand sanitiser and soap able to accommodate scent, so perhaps that’s a starting point.
Of course, another option is to do nothing. After all I can always wait until life returns to some kind of normality before re-emerging with a wave of scented experiences ready for interaction. But waiting around doesn’t sit well with me. So perhaps a trip to the studio to do a bit of thinking and tinkering is in order.
In fact lets go and do that now.