playing with perfume | speculating on studio spaces | investigating creative processes

A Scented Self Portrait

Through an established process of asking artists ‘Why do you make art?’ then using the response received to inform the use of fragrances, I have been making ‘perfume portraits’ of other artists for over 2 years, amassing 40 perfumes so far – and counting.

Naturally, the question that emerges as an audience becomes more familiar with my work is ‘Have you made a self portrait in this way?’ The answer, up until now, has been no.

However, upon devising a group exhibition (along with fellow artist Sharon Mossbeck) entitled Alternative Portraits, an opportunity emerged to subject myself to my own processes, thus achieving a perfume that captures my essence.

It’s also an opportunity to get firm with myself – directly externalising and ordering the processes that drive my creative output. It could result a cathartic and affirming statement that reinforces my creative integrity. Or it could result in a muddle of contradictions that throws up more questions than answers. Either way, it’s something of a challenge.

So, I presented to myself the question: ‘Why do I make art?’ Ultimately I concluded that it’s because I strive to find alternatives. Alternatives to pre-established conventions and alternative ways of experiencing, relating and responding to the world around us. To provide an alternative is to provide new means of communication that can potentially instigate social, moral and political change, provide agency, bolster and unify communities, and bring together otherwise fractious sets of people. An alternative can be important, necessary and powerful.

From my answer, the notion of the trailblazer emerged, and it’s dual meaning –  as one who discovers something new and makes it accessible and one who prepares a trial through a forest – have informed the fragrant and aesthetic designs of my ‘perfume self portrait’.

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My perfume’s visual designs are based on the Czech Hiking Markers System. It’s a system that’s universal in it’s method of communication and can be used in a literal sense to illustrate new directions. It’s also a system that’s adopted in the Ukraine, and as such provides a neat, if abstract, nod to a certain part of my heritage.

The fragrance itself takes cues from the outdoors – woody fragrances allude to the very notion of the trailblazer; from the physical act of forging new grounds to the emotional tenacity and presence of mind to persist with innovation for the greater good.

Floral tones are also present, describing a certain vulnerability within my creative processes: A ‘fine art perfumer’ is a somewhat untested and undeveloped space to occupy, and is something I am moulding myself without any real precedence. As such, there exists a delicacy and nuance that emerges when the steps I take to assert my creative integrity are more unsure and tentative.

I do feel my perfume as though my self portrait is well rounded. It describes the spirit of innovation and trailblazing, yet has the humility to understand the untested task in hand.

But don’t take my word for it, come and have a sniff for yourself at ‘Alternative Portraits’ – which opens at Access Space, Sheffield, with an Opening Evening on the 8th September, 5.30pm – 8pm.

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