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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As we begin to ease into some kind of normality I am left thinking about my practice as a whole, and how I can ensure safety without compromising my output in light of coronavirus.

 

Typically, my work is interactive, and each exhibition sees my audience getting their mitts all over a collection of perfumes; passing them along to each other and placing them back down ready for someone else to experience it. Given the coronavirus pandemic, it is impractical to design exhibitions this way. Too much contact is made and it will prove difficult to ensure perfumes are interacted with safely. There will also be a degree of reluctance to initiate such interaction. So, during the next few months at least, this approach to making needs to be shelved.

So what does this leave me with? Well, I think a standard Perfume as Practice exhibition whereby the audience cannot interact with the fragrance rather defeats the object. The aim of these exhibitions is to highlight the possibilities of scent so removing access to the scent would render the exhibitions redundant. Of course, the audience could interact with the scent without touching anything – through paper strips attached to walls that have already been dowsed in scent, for example – but experience has taught me that this method is inconsistent, and experimentation is required to ensure quality exhibitions.

 

So what can I do now that showcases my artistic input while being safely removed from the perils of the pandemic? The answer inevitably lies in video.

 

Over the next month or so I intend to make a series of videos that use perfumery to reveal how religion, medicine and ritual have attempted to ward off illness. The scripts for each video are complete and filming should commence imminently. I wanted to introduce an aesthetic that parody’s a cookery show; guiding the audience through an imagined process of how to rustle up a plague cure through fragrance design.

 

The videos should be fun and rather informal, but should hopefully educate a little too. I’m looking forward to finally filming them.

 

Now if only someone could invent Smell-O-Vision…


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As soon as lockdown was announced I endeavoured to adapt and continue developing my artistic practice as much as possible. What actually happened was I ended up playing with Lego.

In fairness I began in earnest; visiting my studio at the end of March in order to pack as many things as possible into a few suitcases and construct a studio of sorts in my dining room. Proudly, I arranged my bottles, essential oils and paints orderly and took a few pictures for the inevitable Instagram post.

For a fair few weeks these materials mostly sat idle. Perhaps the process of adapting took longer than expected, as a slew of cancelled or postponed projects combined with a stark recalculation of finances to take hold on my state of mind. This, alongside a general lack of motivation when I try to work from home, meant that any creative output was reserved, not for perfumery, but curiously, Lego.

Making Lego sets based on the theme of isolation relaxed my mind and provided a rather joyful means of escapism. From a yeti living in an igloo to a sailor stranded on an Island, thinking of scenarios for Lego minifigues within the context of isolation was challenging and varied while being carefree. A cathartic, cleansing process that equipped me for the next step; getting back to doing some ‘proper’ artwork.

In fairness, I resumed in earnest. From the latter part of April, a renewed vigour for professional practice took hold. Since then I made a video for BasementArtsProject, began setting up on online shop, created two commercial fragrances, started making a video for Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and started researching future exhibition opportunities. Quite a jump in activity, no doubt ignited by the realisation that that spending all day at home, while by no means coming to an end, won’t be forever, so I should make the most of the opportunity.

And perhaps I’m judging my relative inactivity prior too harshly. After all we have all developed our own strategies for coping with lockdown; each perfectly valid. And it’s not like my professional practice lay completely dormant, as I co-devised and co-curated an online exhibition over on Instagram, called Fronteer Lockdown, from the end of March and I made a live video for Artcore, Derby at the beginning of April.

So while I am cautiously looking to the future I can tentatively claim to be proud of what I am achieving during lockdown. And I’m still tinkering with a bit of Lego.


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This rather innocuous image represents the initial development of something I have thus far unexplored; selling perfume commercially.

This perfume sample – outsourced to fragrance suppliers Carvansons to my specifications – will be sold at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery from May 2020, to coincide with their upcoming Pre-Raphaelite exhibition.

While this unisex fragrance is designed with an element of mass appeal, it still contains a certain conceptual weight, as it acts as an olfactory depiction of the Pre-Raphaelites and their nostalgic interpretation of medieval life. The fragrance is filled will abundant fruits and florals, representing a bountiful and quintessentially English existence. The perfume finishes with exotic spices and musks, which reference human endeavour and conquest.

Look out for my perfume if you’re in Bristol this summer!


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I spent the last few days embarking upon that most arduous of tasks – sorting out my studio space.

It was a curiously cathartic process which saw me tidy away my array of pencils, pens and paintbrushes; making way instead for a vat of perfumers alcohol, carrier oils and perfumers scales.

And yet it’s not as if I’ve just embarked on my perfume making journey; I’ve been doing it for 5 years. I think this last month has seen me drift further away from my other practiced art forms because of the nature of the opportunities I am presented with, which include devising scented experiences at Leeds International Festival and Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

Previous perfume exhibitions have incorporated painting. This was done in part to ‘keep my hand in’ as I still enjoy the process. However, the above two opportunities, by design, will not involve any other art form; only perfumery. This actually takes me out of my comfort zone a little, and makes me want to refine, develop and improve my perfume making process in order to engage, inspire and delight an audience purely through scent design. That, and my Bristol opportunity also includes a commercial element which will see a perfume I have designed being sold in their shop. The perfume making process is certainly going to take priority over the next few months.

At least my studio is ready for it.


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January always feels like a rather difficult month to instigate and artistic action. The excesses of Christmas last longer than they should; the cold winter air quells any motivation and then there’s the small matter of completing a tax return…

Luckily then, I have been able to take part in a group exhibition without hardly having to lift a finger, all thanks to no less an institution that the University of Chester – the university I graduated at in 2007.

Nice to See You to See You Nice is a group exhibition featuring work from staff, students and alumni from the University of Chester, and is housed at CASC – a fantastic contemporary space in the heart of Chester set up by the University.

My work – Seven Keys – is nestled between over 70 other artists, makers and designers each connected to Chester University. It’s great how the exhibition acts as such a social platform; the opening evening on Friday 24th January was a hive of conversations between Chester University affiliates, each brought together through artistic practice. Perhaps the exhibition will reaffirm some friendships, encourage collaborations or instigate further creative endeavour.

Seven Keys is a series of perfumes about love and lust. Presented are 7 perfumes; only one is a concoction of natural ingredients which represent the virtues of love. The rest comprise of synthetic oils and represent lust.

Seven Keys is a great introduction to the possibilities of perfumery – highlighting that with careful scent design perfume can house narrative and symbolism. The theme also lends itself to valentine’s Day, which is useful as Nice to See You to See You Nice runs until 12th March. The opening hours are Mondays – Tuesdays 10-4; Fridays 12 – 6; Saturdays 10 – 4.


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