Scents of Our Time sees the design of scented candles in response to the news and current affairs of the day. The candles will be created using an established method of interpretation and investigation that will see me choose wax, fragrance oils and visual embellishments relevant to any given news item. The candles will then be exhibited in contemporary art settings ready for an audience to interact with in a manner that presents, through scent design, the most pertinent issues of our time.
Scents of Our Time is a sister project to Perfume as Practice, as both aim to utilise the artistic and communicative possibilities of scent. By approaching candle making this way, Scents of Our Time aims to reveal an alternative means of considering scented candles that confounds our preconceptions and validates the potential candle making has for contemporary art considerations.
Earlier this month 15 Scents of Our Time candles were housed at Mugen Tea House – a café in Sheffield. It marked a shift in context in comparison to my residency in Access Space, which by its nature afforded a degree of experimentation within the space itself. I treated my show at Mugen Tea House as a straight exhibition, delivering 15 fully formed candles to the venue where they remained for the duration.
This meant that I approached the candle making process a little differently. Gone was the sense of urgency required to make candles within an allotted time in favour of a more considered approach prior to the exhibition. This resulted in candles that in essence were more competent, but perhaps lost a certain urgency that previously aligned the candles to the fervent nature of breaking news.
While there is no correct or incorrect approach to my candle making process, I believe finding a balance between active response and competent construction is key. Ultimately I want Scents of Our Time to deliver on two grounds: Providing an alternative and subversive perception of candle making and revealing the capacity candle making has for narrative. A combination of considered aesthetics and active responses to news stories should ensure this.
I suppose the important thing now is to keep going, keep refining the process and attempt to find that balance.
Last week marked the 3rd and final week of my residency at Access Space that saw me utilise candle making to respond to the news of the day. Being the final week, it saw a shift of focus from working to exhibiting, as candle production was reduced in favour of curation ready for a closing event. The resultant exhibition saw the presentation of 18 candles, each a separate response to the news, along with visual embellishments and, in an attempt at transparency in my processes, information regarding how each candle was made.
The aim of Scents of Our Time at Access Space was to reveal the capacity candle making has for social comment, agency and creative action while providing transparency into the creative process, allowing for insight and knowledge exchange. I believe that these aims were mostly achieved, but in unexpected ways.
For one, I didn’t account for the visual intricacies of each candle to be contemplated by an audience. Perfume as Practice – my other project that utilises scent – tends to rely on supporting visual material to create a cohesive set of work as otherwise it’s proven hard for an audience to engage with it beyond face value. Scents of Our Time didn’t actually need any other supporting material as each candle contained enough visual information to be regarded within context: If I am, for example, responding to the (relative) triumph of the England National Football Team, a candle adorned with grass-green and white wax already provides an audience with a visual representation. This use of colour is absent from perfume as Practice and as such, perhaps I had gotten overly used to designing extra visual ques even when I don’t need them.
Unfortunately, a combination of The World Cup and the hot weather (both of which were responded to in my candles) meant audience attendance was down on what might have been expected. However, what audience there was appeared fully engaged with the project, citing it’s innovation and subversive approach to candle making. This is a fantastic starting point and I think the project lends itself to being a residency, as it forces me to respond with urgency and energy to the news of the day. And it will be fun seeing where this leads.
It’s week 2 of Scents of our Time at Access Space and, thankfully, I’ve finally managed to get a bit of visual material (almost) completed:
Designed in a manner that apes news graphics, this painting continues a precedent set with my Perfume as Practice body of work. Namely, under current projects the paintings that I complete act simply as visual description of proceedings.
This should come as no surprise, as my work subverts of perception of the senses, allowing scent to become primary and leaving vision as a secondary tool: Therefore having paintings that simply enhance and embellish the experience without taking centre stage is apt. Either way I’m glad Scents of Our Time affords the excuse to paint as, on an entirely basic level, I enjoy it.
So far I have made 8 candles, all a description of various news items, ranging from England’s (relative) success in the World Cup to Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle.
I have found that the candle making process – slow, considered and cathartic – provides an alternative method of digesting the news, which often arrives rapidly and successively, affording no time to meaningful contemplation. This is something I will take into my third week.
This week sees the beginning of my residency at Access Space where I will create candles in situ in response to the news stories of the day.
I will be present this Wednesday (4th July) although I expect much of the day to be spent setting up the space and perhaps making a candle or two.
I don’t really know what to expect, both in terms of my approach to responding to the news through scent design or with regard to audience engagement. I have deliberately not given thought to how I am going to approach things, nor have I attempted to pre-empt the kind of news events I will respond to. I want the residency to harness an instantaneous and improvised spirit similar to how breaking news is reported.
The chief aim of the residency is to gauge whether an audience can engage with the concept of utilising candle making as a means of social and political commentary; subverting preconceptions of what candle making can be and placing it on a contemporary art platform. My presence in the space will be vital, even if it’s only to explain proceedings. It will be interesting to see how the project fares when left entirely to audiences own devices.
I feel rather buoyed by this residency, as it’s the first public outing of Scents of Our Time – and I’d like to send a huge thank-you to Access Space for the opportunity. Gauging it’s successes and failures will be vital for further outings, but for now I’m just relishing the moment.
My ambition for Scents of our Time in 2018 was simply to get it exhibited somewhere. A reasonable enough goal for a project in its infancy, and I’m happy to announce that it will be showing in 2 places in Sheffield between July and August, thus achieving my goal. I’m hoping that exhibiting will afford me the opportunity to step back, bear witness to the workings of the project and understand how it sits in an exhibition space. It will also be useful to gauge an audience’s perceptions and reactions.
That’s not all though, as the first incarnation of Scents of our Time will actually take the guise of a residency at Access Space in July. The residency will see me creating candles in situ in direct response to the political news items of any given day. These candles will then be exhibited in the same space.
This residency presents a chance to describe all aspects of the project to an audience, which I often find useful for crystallising my actions and though processes. Indeed, I believe there is a lot more to the project that originally meets the eye. From my unique and established methods of responding to news items to designing relevant visual embellishments, it’s a project that will reveal its intricacies to you the more time you spend with it.
‘One Minute Silence’ (Candle, 2017) in response to the London Bridge terror attack.