The last 3 weeks have seen me fully engrossed in Desire and Alchemy: an exhibition at BasementArtsProject, Leeds that houses my latest set of perfumes. It is the sixth occasion a range of my perfume portraits has been themed and staged within a contemporary art gallery. However, in an effort instigate professional development; both in terms of how an audience regards my work and how collaboration can inform practice, this exhibition marks the first time Perfume as Practice has been placed alongside the work of another artist.
Desire and Alchemy is an exhibition by two artists – myself and Emilia Telese. We actually met on this very platform and, through extended conversation over the last year; we endeavoured to stage an exhibition that developed our body of work in new directions while contributing to the overall discourse regarding scent as a means of communication within contemporary art.
My own work – entitled Perfume as Practice AW18 – is an installation that comprises 13 perfumes, two sculptural works with scented elements and a painting that pertains to the theme of alchemy. Indeed, the entire installation takes influence from alchemist practices in an effort to respond to the space:
Telese’s work – entitled Scents of Self – utilises Scratch and Sniff technology to explore image, pattern and body. Her work invites the viewer to touch the artwork in order to reveal scents hidden within:
The exhibition also comprises a joint piece of work that places perfumery within historical contexts. The piece aims to reveal enlightening and unexpected utilities for perfume that may confound expectations of what perfume can be:
Overall, the exhibition feels very accomplished. I think the reason for this is, chiefly, is because from the outset Emilia and I were aware of the perils of devising scented experiences in art; they often come across as gimmicky, or auxiliary. I feel as though we both attempted to combat this by being disciplined and stringent in sticking to a craft; be it performance, scratch and sniff technology or perfume design. This enabled an audience to appreciate how our work was made, and the fact that our creative processes directly include perfume as a material allows the exhibition to reveal how scent can be contemplated as an art form in alignment with painting and sculpture.
BasementArtsProject has held two events during Desire and Alchemy; an Opening Evening and a Lunchtime conversation. These events offered the opportunity for Emilia and I to talk about our work to an audience. As Perfume as Practice is an ongoing body of work, with each exhibition informing the other, I always deem it useful to explain the project in its entirety before explaining the nuances and developments of the specific exhibition. Sometimes I wonder about the value of doing this, or whether it’s an overabundance of information, but generally audiences seem responsive enough. Hopefully each Perfume as Practice exhibition elicits an unexpected gallery experience, which in turn provokes more curiosity in the project as a whole.
To conclude, Desire and Alchemy has been a very rewarding experience and I hope Emilia and I will work together again. The exhibition runs by appointment until 19th November. So you still have time to catch it. See BasementArtsProject.com for details.