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.
This week sees the opening of my latest Perfume as Practice show, which will take place at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol from 4th – 9th October 2019.
As ever, Perfume as Practice AW19 will look at the artistic potential of perfumery and how it can be used to create portraiture. The exhibition will comprise 18 perfumes, each a portrait of another artist. These perfume portraits are achieved through my well-established process that begins by asking artists the question ‘why do you make art?’ Then, through a method of intuition and investigation, I create perfume relative to the answer received – capturing the essence of an artist.
In an effort to forge tighter connections this exhibition will provide the artists involved a chance to exhibit their own work alongside their portraits under the overarching theme of ‘voyage’. This theme alludes to Bristol’s history as a port town and acts as a metaphor for the careers of each artist. As ever the exhibition promises to subvert your expectations of scent, perfume and portraiture in general!
I’m really looking forward to exhibiting in Bristol as it’s a city I’ve never visited so it will be great to immerse myself in it for a week. I am also really happy to have secured Arts Council funding for this particular exhibition, which I always feel validates Perfume as Practice somewhat, with particular regards to how perfume can be perceived as an artform.
Many thanks to Centrespace Gallery for the opportunity, and to the artists involved, whose perfume portrait and own work will be on display: Sue Burley; JanCarlo Caling; Marisa Culatto; Stig Evans; Jenna Fox; Andrea Freeman; Liz Griffiths; Catherine Higham; Jeff Hunter; Lady M; Grant Lambie; Heather Fiona Martin; Sharon Mossbeck; Helen Sills; Agatha Smith; Clare Smith; Robert Verrill; Myfanwy Williams
Well, safe to say I have somewhat neglected this particular platform over the last few months! Since July I’ve been busy installing and curating exhibitions and securing workshops, all of which have been sadly absent from this blog.
However, I aim to remedy such neglectfulness by looking to the future. Next month I am heading to Bristol in order to curate and install my latest Perfume as Practice exhibition at Centrespace Gallery. The exhibition will house at least 15 perfumes, each a portrait of another artist. The exhibition aims to reveal the artistic potential of perfumery and will be set to a theme in keeping with Bristol’s rich history of trade routes.
In November I will be creating bespoke reed diffusers in an aim to develop a commercial arm of Perfume as Practice. The diffusers will each house a botanical blend of domestic plantlife, and will be for sale during the Art in the Home exhibition at Kommune, Sheffield.
Both of these endeavours will be explored and documented on this here blog as I aim to reconnect with the act of writing about my work. So watch this space for more updates!
This July arts initiative Fronteer – which I co-founded and co-run with artist Sharon Mossbeck – are staging an exhibition at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield.
The exhibition is entitled Botanicals and features art pertaining to the theme of botanics, all selected by Fronteer. The exhibition showcases an array of artistic disciplines, styles and concepts from artists both across the UK and internationally and is sponsored in-kind by Sheffield-based florist Campbell’s Flowers, who have designed a contemporary floral display within the exhibition.
Not content with devising, organising and curating the exhibition alongside Sharon, I am also exhibiting in it. Moreover, I am using the exhibition as an opportunity to consider a new, unexpected utility for perfumery that lies beyond our preconceptions – that of it’s potential to preserve botanical specimens.
The piece I have made for the exhibition – entitled The Society of Life After Soil – presents 12 fragrances, each of them takes a vulnerable botanical specimen and suspends them in an oil carrier: Preserving them and protecting them from the environmental and humanitarian concerns they are otherwise facing, such as climate change, over-consumption and illegal trade.
My piece seeks to highlight the capacity perfumery has to comment on environmental issues and as such, reveals it’s potential as an artform; in line with the likes of painting and sculpture.
Utilising perfumery in this way is an avenue I have not yet explored as previous perfume making pursuits have revolved around portraiture. Quite apart from the personal nature of portraiture, this piece touches on contemporary environmental concerns and I am keen to take the idea to relevant yet unexplored territories, such as botanical gardens, to see how such a context alters the audiences response to my work.
In the meantime though, Botanicals is open at Exchange Place Studios until 27th July.
June 2019 marked the 9th incarnation of Perfume as Practice, which was staged at Asylum Gallery, Wolverhampton. The exhibition comprised of 12 perfume portraits and 5 paintings, themed under the idea of protest. The exhibition also represented a milestone for the project as a whole, as it housed the 100th perfume portrait I have created since the project’s conception in late 2015.
The 100th perfume portrait was of artist Hannah Taylor. Here it is presented next to the very first perfume portrait I created, of artist Lee Green:
I take Lee’s perfume around with me; showcasing it at workshops as an example of my perfume making process. Hannah’s perfume has been left with her at Asylum Gallery as she is the co-director of the space. The painted livery adorned on Lee’s perfume has gone through numerous repairs as it has chipped, cracked and flaked off. It could probably use a new lick of paint at the moment actually.
Lee’s perfume utilised herbal and oriental notes in an effort to create a gender neutral fragrance, pertaining to the idea of how art can debunk gender stereotypes. Hannah’s perfume used clean, fresh notes to mask deep, bodily undertones, and considered how both fragrance and art can be used as a vehicle to mask and unmask identity.
Curiously then, both perfumes are rather conceptual and attempt to exploit our preconceptions of perfume in order to house portraiture.
Anyway, onto the next 100!
In the wake of climate change may we utilise perfumery as a means of preserving vulnerable botanical specimens, subverting our expectations of perfumery and re-positioning it as a tool for preservation in the process? That’s what my latest range of perfumes seek to discover:
The Society for Life After Soil takes the essential oils of botanical specimens deemed vulnerable and suspends them in a carrier. Preserving their essence so that, in a time of catastrophe, we will have preserved a value natural source. This range of perfumes suggests a new, unexpected utility for perfumery and highlights the capacity scent has for narrative and environmental concepts when placed on a contemporary art platform.
The Society for Life After Soil will debut at Botanicals – an exhibition of contemporary art based on the theme of botanics, to be Held at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield, from 6th – 27th July. A Private View of the exhibition will take place on 5th July, from 6-8pm. Hope to see you there.