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.


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Next week I travel to Athens to participate in Platforms Project – an independent art fair in the heart of the city. It’s the 3rd time I will have entered work into the art fair, and the 2nd time I’ve directly been involved in the curation and installation of my work.

This year my participation in Platforms Project will once again take the guise of a group exhibition. The exhibition, entitled ‘Wonderer’ seeks to reacquaint an audience with Ancient Greek appropriations of the planets.

The exhibition comprises 3 artists – myself, Sharon Mossbeck and Alison Whitmore together form arts collective Fronteer. We have taken 3 planets each to interpret, explore and interpret from an Ancient Greek context. My chosen planets are Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter. Or, as the Ancient Greeks would have it; Ouranous, Kronos and Zeus – three Greek Gods with a family lineage.

So how does a fine art perfumer go about creating something from these three Gods? Well, by taking advantage of the family lineage and utilising the capacity fragrance has for narrative, metaphor and I have encapsulated the planets of Ouranous, Kronos and Zeus in three separate fragrances.

Each fragrance contains potent spices and woody notes; alluding to their godly, confident qualities and direct family history. Yet they also contain delicate floral notes, zesty fruits and earthy spices in an attempt to describe each God’s individual narrative.

Each perfume is a portrait of the respective God and is as rich and complex as you might expect from portraiture. Hopefully my audience at Platforms Project will agree that my unique approach to perfumery reveals a meaningful and untapped art form.


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The more stuff you are doing, the less time you have to write about it. That’s a saying, isn’t it? Well if it isn’t it should be. Over the last 10 days I have been so embroiled by artistic activity that I have barely had time to catch my breath. As such, I have shamefully neglected my weekly obligation to a-n artist blogs. However, in an attempt to rectify the situation I have comprised a double-length blog post detailing and assessing everything I have done since last Monday. I’m sure it’s the kind of thing a lot of artists can relate to. Here goes:

Monday 9th April.

Its two days until installation of my solo show at Bureau, Blackburn. Experience has taught me to make perfumes at least 3 weeks prior to an opening as this gives fragrances time to go through a maturing process and settle before the exhibition begins. As such, the fragrances are complete. But, unsatisfied with merely providing perfumes, I spend today completing all visual material for the show. This comprises of 4 paintings representing 4 saints, and one painting that seeks to describe the show as a whole. I get to my studio at midday and leave at 7pm, having completed all the work to my satisfaction.

Tuesday 10th April

The main body of the work for my show is done. Feverishly, I start occupying my mind with the little things, like what colour paper to use for wall text, the font of my wall text and where the wall text should be placed. While important it hardly warranted the attention I gave it. It’s like I don’t know how to stop.

Wednesday 11th April

This is the day of installing Perfume as Practice at Bureau, Blackburn. Travelling from Sheffield via Leeds on the train with bags of perfume, shelving, tools and paintings at first felt like a daunting prospect. But, with the help of fellow artist Sharon Mossbeck, the journey went smoothly. The install essentially entailed the installation of 4 shelves, 5 paintings and a few other embellishments, before placing 15 perfumes on the shelves. It was relatively straightforward to be honest.

I stay in Blackburn for the night as the opening evening is tomorrow.

Thursday 12th April

Thursday was the Opening Evening of Perfume as Practice. Beforehand Sharon and I took the chance to visit Samlesbury Hall nearby: After all, one of the accidentally great things about being an artist is the opportunity to visit places you may not get a chance to go to otherwise.

The opening seemed to go down well. As ever, attendees were struck by the innovative nature of perfume as a vehicle for portraiture, and appreciated the interactive element of actually being able to smell the perfumes. I also held an artist’s talk during the opening, which helped consolidate the themes, ideas and desires found within the making of the exhibition.

I travel back from Blackburn to Sheffield after the opening.

Friday 13th April

Today was the installation and opening of Sharon Mossbeck’s solo show at BasementArtsProject in Leeds. As a means to return the favour from Blackburn, I helped transport her work from Sheffield to Leeds, and I was with her for the opening event. Her exhibition is called ‘Forgotten Spaces’ and charts medieval dungeons by utilising cross stitch. It looks fantastic, and rather harrowing. Credit too should go to BasementArtProject’s Bruce Davies, who designed the curation of the show in a deliberately dark and claustrophobic way.

I travel back from Leeds to Sheffield after the opening.

Saturday 14th April

Today I hold a perfume making workshop at Bureau, Blackburn to coincide with my exhibition. I am pretty well versed in delivering these workshops by now and as expected it runs smoothly. As ever, the experience of exchanging knowledge and introducing attendees to the artistic capabilities of perfumery is rewarding in its own right.

I travel back to Sheffield from Blackburn after the workshop.

Sunday 15th April

Sheffield is currently embroiled with the needless felling of healthy trees. How does a fine art perfumer respond to this? Simple: By designing a candle that uses earthy woods to reference the beauty of trees and fiery spices that reference the spirit of protest. Such is my ‘Sheffield Tree Protest Candle’:

I placed the candle on social media a few weeks prior, and it seems to have established an audience that would like to purchase one. As such, I spent Sunday travelling around Sheffield physically delivering candles to those who want one. It took a while, but it was a happy excursion, for sure.

Monday 16th – Thursday 19th April

Perfume as Practice is up. Forgotten Spaces is up. My perfume making workshop is done. I have delivered all my candle orders so far. So what next? Well let’s have a look at my emails for a start to see what I have neglected over the last week. Then let’s look at documenting and promoting Perfume as Practice on my various social media outlets. Then let’s maybe start thinking about my upcoming group show in Athens. Then let’s perhaps look at getting more venues for Perfume as Practice next year; and Scents of our Time. The list, as ever, goes on.


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Last week I made a bespoke perfume based on coffee. Yes. coffee. Now, I know what you’re thinking – ‘Michael! last month you were making perfumes about planets, and this week, out of nowhere, you’ve made a perfume about coffee?! Why?! I don’t even know you anymore!’

Well, fear not (and maybe calm down a little!) for there is method to my madness. I will explain everything later. First though, let’s have a look at the perfume itself:

‘This is Coffee 50ml EDT’ – to give it it’s full title – is the most overt showcasing of perfume as an art form I have yet made in my position as a fine art perfumer. For one, it’s visual livery is bespoke and of a higher standard than usual; it playfully impersonates a high-end supermarket coffee brand – utilising watercolour, paper and gold leaf to feign the appearance of a luxurious yet affordable product.

The scent itself, though, is at odds with such visual embellishments. As a fine art perfumer, I seek to develop ways of using scent to instigate social, political and environmental comment. As such it is not only the aroma of coffee that takes precedence within the fragrance composition. This fragrance comprises 3 other fragrance notes that allude to the various social, economic and environmental factors associated with coffee and coffee production: Brazilian Rosewood oil, while ethically sourced, is nevertheless from a tree loaded with implications of sustainability that run parallel to coffee production. The Orange oil also derives from Brazil, and as such references the rich history Brazil has with coffee production. Hazelnut is also present, which references the versatility coffee has both as a product and ingredient.

Furthermore and from the context of perfumery, the scent of coffee beans is said to cleanse the nose in preparation for assessing aromatic compounds; it is a tool that allows a perfumer to devise scent combinations with more accuracy. ‘This is Coffee’ shuns the established, clinical use of coffee beans within perfumery and instead places coffee at the very heart of the fragrance composition. Again this removes perfumery from it’s conventions and seeks to place it in a subversive, contemporary art platform.

Phew! So, that was ‘This is Coffee’. Now, what does this mean for my wider creative output? Well, simply put, this is to act as a template for the three planet-based perfumes I am going to produce for Athens next month. ‘This is Coffee’ is a piece of preliminary work that establishes the fact that simply making a bespoke perfume with a meaningful artistic fragrance composition and competent visual livery makes for an engaging scented experience. I feel over recent months I have been thinking a little too hard about how the ‘scented experience’ should act upon the viewer. Stripping my practice down the essentials of bespoke perfume, in a box and embellished accordingly, highlights with precision how the craft of perfume can accommodate meaning beyond it’s preconceptions.

I’m looking forward to bottling Uranus, Jupiter and Saturn in a similar manner over the coming weeks.


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Well I had it all planned out didn’t I? I declared but a few weeks ago that I’d use this blogging space to assess and appraise each of the three planets I’m going to devise a scented experience for in order to devise a strategy going forward. Only problem is in the middle of last week I decided exactly what I was going to do, and what I’m going to do doesn’t need the assessment of each planet. What it needs is consideration of how these planets are related from the context of Greek Mythology.

You see, the planets of my choosing are Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter. When Greek Mythology is applied to these planets, they become Ouranos, Kronos and Zeus. They become Gods. Moreover, Ouranos is Kronos’s father, and Kronos is Zeus’s father. Therefore a direct family line can be traced between all 3. albiet a Godly one.

So what to deduce from this, as a fine art perfumer? Well a there’s certainly something to explore within the concept of the family, especially the capacity families have for history, memory, nostalgia and how such notions link to scent. Often, the first perfume someone experiences is owned by a family member, and this perfume becomes revered due to the trappings of nostalgia.

Informed by this, My work will comprise 3 perfume portraits that represent each God. Each portrait will constitute nominally the same composition, but altered slightly in line with the narrative of each God and their relationship to each other. For example, Uranus will house a musky quality, referencing sex and masculinity; but that will disappear in Saturn’s composition, referencing how Saturn castrated Uranus within Greek mythology. This will highlight the capacity fragrance has for narrative.

The work will also constitute a tension between the domesticity of perfume and the vastness of the cosmos. This will be referenced in the visual aesthetics of each perfume.

In fact, the eagle-eyed amongst you would have noticed that I have included no visual imagery within my blogs recently. This is because I wanted to firm up the conceptual side of things before I committed to any visual design. Now the concept is in mind I will return next week with livery ideas.

Until next time then!


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Perfumed Planets #2 – The Smell of the Sky

Uranus – or Ouranos as the Ancient Greeks would have it – is a primal personification of the sky. The sky is an intangible, ethereal entity that possesses a certain mystery; it is a platform we use to place our contemplative, reflective thoughts, which enables us to associate with it from a philosophical standpoint.

So, how does the fine art perfumer contemplate the sky? Can a scented equivalent for the sky be constructed, and does it translate into a viable scented experience for an audience? Well, the mystical quality the sky bears parallels with fragrance; both possess an intangibility but, if we place them together, perhaps we can establish a firmer understanding of both.

But quite how this manifest itself remains to be seen. intuitively I thought about constructing scented equivalents of the colour blue. I thought about using fresh, clean fragrance notes that, when experienced, would conjure up the image of blue. A sound enough starting point but not one I’m particularly excited by.

But over the last week, something struck me – In Greek Mythology, Ouranos is the father of Kronos, and Kronos is the father of my third planet, Jupiter (or Zeus). Therefore, perhaps I need to devise a scented experience that encapsulates all 3 Gods in a manner akin to how family connotations, nostalgia and the intrinsic link between scent and memory plays its part in why people buy perfume.

Therefore, I pose to myself new questions. Namely, could a scented experience be constructed that appraises the relationships between these Gods while retaining the domestic preconceptions we associate with perfume? And simultaneously, would placing the domestic tenancies of perfume within the context of Greek Mythology reveal the capacity fragrance has for narrative, symbolism and art?

Perhaps, but right now things are a little cloudy…


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