Since early September I have been working on an upcoming Perfume as Practice range of fragrances ready for exhibiting at BasementArtsProject, Leeds. It will take a departure from my usual approach and process to Perfume as Practice exhibitions. Firstly, rather than a display of portraits, my perfumes will each describe the reasons why artists make art – revealing the capacity perfume has for socially engaged creative action.
Secondly, the exhibition – entitled Desire and Alchemy – will mark the first time Perfume as Practice has been placed alongside another artist – Emilia Telese.
Emilia and I both have an established interest in utilising scent within our artistic practice, with the aim of revealing how scent can be a powerful and meaningful mode of communication.
My work – Entitled Perfume as Practice AW18 – will house 15 perfumes, and will take influence from alchemist practices in order to achieve desired fragrances, with the viewer invited to experience and interact with each perfume.
Telese’s work – entitled Scents of Self – will utilise Scratch and Sniff technology to explore image, pattern and body. Her work will invite the viewer to touch the artwork in order to reveal scents hidden within.
The Opening Evening will be on Friday 19th October from 7.30-9.30pm. The evening is free, and both artists on hand to discuss their work. Refreshments will also be available.
If you can make it, it would be great to see you!
While to the untrained eye Perfume as Practice has seemed dormant over the last few months, in fact the opposite is true; in reality I have been spending time navigating a course of action for 2019 – securing exhibitions, sourcing workshop venues and enquiring about delivering talks and lectures. Thankfully, this has already resulted in a rather full diary for 2019 which I am already eager to get on with.
I seem to have acquired an unlikely knack for securing exhibitions for Perfume as Practice. This is no doubt due to the somewhat innovative nature of the project combined with the untapped potential of the art form. A few artists have asked me how I’m able to successfully secure such opportunities and while I don’t particularly have a magic formula for it, I feel I have learned a thing or two over the years. Here are a few tips I thought I’d share:
1. Be boring
As important as providing information about your ideas, processes and concepts, the technical aspects of your work should also be thoroughly explained. Do you need power? Do you have insurance? How do you intend to hang and curate your work? Do you have your own tools?
Explaining such things may be a little boring, but it shows that you have carefully considered every inch of your project; and that’s the kind of professional attitude that galleries look for.
2. What else can you provide?
This may not apply to everyone, but I have found that providing a schedule of events to co-inside with an exhibition advantageous. Particularly as in my case a perfume making workshop taps into an art form that is little explored by contemporary art. I also offer artist talks and opening evenings, which are great for directly engaging with an audience.
3. Just go for it!
Galleries are usually more accommodating than they might initially appear and if the project you are proposing strikes a chord with them, there is every change they’d be interested in running your show. Don’t forget that behind glossy websites and online forms lies a person – or group of people – who are no doubt eager to provide you with a supportive platform and may well help you through the application process if you need it.
This month marked the first time in two years that Perfume as Practice was side-lined in favour of another project. But, as Scents of Our Time gathered momentum in the form of a residency, Perfume as Practice wasn’t totally absent as it was taken to two art fairs; Walk of Art, Horsforth and Wakefield ArtTrail.
I generally find it hard to engage with audiences at art fairs as they tend to focus on finding something to buy (in my experience anyway). While there’s nothing wrong with this, it does rather negate the conceptual implications of my work and why I make it. That said, it is always nice talking to people, who always seem supportive even if they don’t ‘get it’ and a little extra cash from sales never hurt anyone.
In fact, seeing my work laid out in front of me does make me appreciate the sheer reach of the project. I’m not just dealing with portraiture, as often cited, but I’m also dealing with colour theory, with historical contexts, with sculpture, with astrology, with love and with the Greek Gods themselves. The act of laying out your work proves a useful exercise, even if just to see how far you’ve come.
Created during my residency at Orchard Square, Sheffield last September as a mere piece of mise en scène, I feel as though Poison Bible has not been afforded the attention it deserves as a stand alone piece of work as it’s a competent blend of visual and olfactory aesthetics that harnesses narrative, portraiture and religion:
Referencing the historical practice of hiding cabinets within books, Poison Bible‘s narrative suggests that the essence of any personality can be captured in perfume by utilising the introvert/extrovert continuum. It seeks to reveal the capacity scent has for narrative and portraiture, and this is reinforced and by historical and religious contexts.
From a conceptual point of view, it was intended as something of a speculative precursor to my perfume portraits: I wish to devise an alternative history of artistic practice that places scent as our primary mode of communication and Poison Bible is a rather more primitive method of devising perfume portraits in comparison to my stand-alone fragrances.
Safe to say it’s rather loaded with ideas, thoughts and concepts that warrants an audiences attention and a little time in the spotlight. That’s why it will be exhibited at ‘Cabinet of Curiosity’ in Enköping, Sweden in August and September this year. With thanks to ArtMobile for the opportunity!
Last weekend I was part of a group exhibition at the Old Holy Trinity Church, Wentworth called ‘Measure’ – which looks at the human soul. My own offering was a scented narrative that suggests you can weigh your soul against the virtues of your job.
This is the second outing of this particular body of work, with the first being at Sheffield Cathedral last year. I found that the informal yet contemplative space of Old Trinity Church lent itself more to audience engagement. this was evidenced by how many people took the time to look and contemplate what was in front of them. As such, conversations emerged about life, purpose, vocation, perceptions of self, perceptions of each other and indeed mortality.
It wasn’t all about Life’s Big Questions though, as the design and implementation of my work also revealed to an audience the capacity perfumery has for narrative. In this instance, the perfume I have created forms part of an installation that incorporates painting, 3D work and text. This allows my audience to directly comprehend perfumery against other more established art forms. It certainly holds it’s own and enhances the overall experience.
From a personal standpoint, placing the work in an exhibition allowed me to take a step back and contemplate it’s workings. I think this work presents a clear indication of the strong links scent has to narrative. Whether that be an audience comprising their own narrative based on recollection, or utilising the craft of perfumery to devise narratives from fragrance notes, the possibilities of utilising scent in narrative is evident.