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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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.


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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!


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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.


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My next Perfume as Practice solo exhibition opens at Asylum Gallery, Wolverhampton, on 15th June, with the Private view at 6-9pm. As you may know, I theme my Perfume as Practice exhibitions around specific themes. Doing so allows me to respond to spaces and place perfumery in different contexts, reveling the capacity scent has to accommodate contemporary art concepts. It also allows me to play with a fragrance industry convention of unveiling a themed or seasonal collection.

The theme for my Wolverhampton show is ‘Protest’, which has been a tricky subject to frame Perfume as Practice around. Initial thoughts revolved around historical uses of scent to as a means of controlling groups of people. However, this would place scent in a somewhat negative light, and if Perfume as Practice is about one thing, it’s about highlighting how perfume can unify and bolster creative communities when considered as an artform. With this in mind – and considering how protests bring people together in an act of unity – I decided to take the opportunity of utilising ‘protest’ to place perfumery in a positive light; revealing it’s capacity for community spirit, peace, empowerment and agency.

I’ve also used the exhibition as an opportunity to re-brand my image a little. You see, Perfume as Practice has always attempted to demystify the perfume making process; allowing it to be regarded not merely as a luxury commodity, but as a tool of expression that can give others a voice. Perfume is power, and I want to shout about it; as a Perfumer of the People.

You can find out more about by forthcoming Perfume as Practice Private View here. I hope to see you there.


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May has been a rather busy and productive month, as no doubt evidenced by my distinct lack of blogging. In between making perfumes for exhibitions, running workshops and playing with audio/visual equipment I’ve seldom had the time to sit, think and reflect. But guess what? Now is that time. So let’s have it.

The beginning of May saw me stage a group exhibition with arts collective Oracles, who focus of themes of loss, history and religion. The exhibition was staged at Halifax Minster, and was entitled ‘And …Forgive Us Our Trespasses’. It looked at the Seven Deadly Sins, with each artist choosing a sin each to respond to. Given the somewhat alluring connotations associated with perfume, the sin I chose was lust. My work, entitled ‘Seven Keys’ sought to tread the line between love and lust:

My work adhered to a simple premise; 7 perfumes are presented, six depicting lust and one depicting lust. The perfumes depicting lust contained synthetic ingredients, referencing the superficial, material workings of lust on the brain. The perfume depicting love housed only natural ingredients, referencing the inherent ‘realness’ of love, which can be subtle, quiet, but no less potent.

I believe this simple premise worked, allowing the audience to comprehend the artistic capabilities of scent design and it’s ability to house concepts and narratives, such as the Seven Deadly Sins. Conversations with the audience revolved around how I’d been able to harness the craft of perfumery for contemporary art ends, and how their expectations were somewhat confounded. This is always my aim, and to hear it relayed back to you is very gratifying.

Creative endeavours throughout the rest of May have centred on something not altogether connected with perfume. Rather, it has seen me create a short, somewhat irreverent film revealing the creative concerns of artists working in Sheffield. The film is imaginatively titled ‘Michael Borkowsky’s Art Thing’ though perhaps a more pertinent title would be ‘I Don’t Really Know What I’m Doing’. After all, this is the first time I have entered the realm of filmmaking and, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that editing is the hardest thing in the world.

Still, creating such a piece of work has provided the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people, such as Sean Maddison-Brown, who helped me present a segment of the film:

I’m looking forward to the end result, and to making new films in the future. I will certainly streamline the process though. Can’t have my perfume based larks playing second-fiddle; Especially when an upcoming solo exhibition in Wolverhampton at Asylum Gallery looms.


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