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Perfume Portraits #93 – #106

It has come to my attention that the 12 perfume portraits I created for my summer exhibition at Asylum Gallery, Wolverhampton have not gone through any kind of documentation process. So, as a means of rectifying such wrongs I thought I’d compose a blog post that acts as an overview of said perfume portraits and an explanation of the exhibition.

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So, June 2019 saw me house 12 perfume portraits at Asylum Gallery Wolverhampton. As ever each perfume was created by utilising my established process that begins with asking artists the question ‘why do you make art?’ then responding to the answer through scent design; capturing the essence of the artist.

Each of the 12 responses were as varied, personal and wide-ranging as you would expect, and my challenge is to create coherent, unique fragrances that do justice to each response given. Often, this involves a great deal of research, and I need to deploy methods such as contextualising each perfume around a theme in order to arrive at a meaningful fragrance. In this exhibition, for example, one artist framed their response to the question ‘why do you make art?’ around the notion that creative action elicits a sense of purpose. So for this fragrance I decided to contextualise the response around Greek Mythology, and, in particular the story of Prometheus: The perfume contained moist woody notes symbolising Mount Olympus, where Prometheus stole fire – represented by potent spicy heart notes – and gave it to man, symbolised by musk. Fire enabled us to understand our intrinsic relationship with the world and, by extension, ourselves.

Through such a process this exhibition saw me use perfumery to cite aromatherapy, medicine, light and colour, love letters, religion, ritual, alchemy and, indeed, a curiously conceptual perfume about perfume itself, which happened to be my 100th perfume portrait. 

Since June I have staged another Perfume as Practice exhibition at Centrespace, Bristol. I’ll let you know how that went later in the week.

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Private View Invitation – Perfume as Practice at Centrespace, Bristol

I would like to invite you all to the Private View of my upcoming Perfume as Practice exhibition at Centrespace, Bristol on Friday 4th October, 6-8pm.  
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Perfume as Practice is an exhibition that looks at the artistic potential of perfumery and how it can be used to create portraiture. The exhibition will comprise 18 perfumes, each a portrait of another artist. These perfume portraits are achieved through a process that begins by asking artists the question ‘why do you make art?’ Then, through a method of intuition and investigation, I create a perfume relative to the answer received – capturing the essence of an artist.
The exhibition will be supported by visual livery pertaining to the theme of ‘Voyage’, has been designed by the artists I have made perfume portraits for; resulting in a collaborative effort that builds a network of artists. The exhibition promises to subvert your expectations of scent, perfume and portraiture in general!
 
The artists involved are:
 
Sue Burley
JanCarlo Caling
Marisa Culatto
Stig Evans
Jenna Fox
Andrea Freeman
Liz Griffiths
Catherine Higham
Jeff Hunter
Lady M
Grant Lambie
Heather Fiona Martin
Andrea Freeman
Helen Sills
Agatha Smith
Clare Smith
Robert Verrill
Myfanwy Williams
 
During the Private View Michael will be on hand to chat to, as will some of the artists involved. Michael will provide an artist talk providing some thoughts and insights into Perfume as Practice. Refreshments will also be provided. The event is free and everyone is welcome.
 
Perfume as Practice is supported by Arts Council England.

Perfume Making Workshop at Exchange Place Studios

On Saturday 27th July I’m running a perfume making workshop from 11am – 1pm at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield, as part of Fronteer‘s Botanicals exhibition. For £20 the workshop provides a fantastic opportunity to learn about the art of perfumery and make a perfume of your own ready to take home. I’d love to see you there! More info and tickets here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/perfume-making-workshop-tickets-63127520112

 


100 Not Out

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:

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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!


Perfumer of the People

My current Perfume as Practice solo exhibition is open at Asylum Gallery, Wolverhampton, until 29th June. 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.

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Making in May

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:

(Photo Credit – Vanitas Arts) 

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.


Perfume Making Workshops in Manchester

On Friday 24th May I am hosting two perfume making workshops at Manchester cradft and design centre. One at 11am – 1pm and one at 2 – 4pm. 

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These 2 hour workshops begin with me introducing my unique, artistic approach perfumery and giving a working demonstration of how to make an Eau De Toilette. I will guide you through all aspects of perfume design including an explanation of fragrance types, an introduction to fragrance notes and how to blend oils to achieve the perfect fragrance. Then, under my support and guidance, you will have a chance to make a  50ml perfume of your own by choosing from an extensive selection of essential oils and fragrance oils. You will also get the chance to decorate the bottle and you will be able to take the perfume home on the day.

These workshops are suitable for men and women and are a great introduction into the art of perfumery, a great way of learning a new skill and a brilliant opportunity to create something truly unique. The price of each workshop is£20, inclusive of all materials.

If you would like to find more information about the 11am – 1pm session click here

If you would like to find more information about the 2 – 4pm session click here

I hope to see you this Friday!


Notes from an Exhibition – Perfume as Practice SS19

Earlier this month I had the privilege of staging Perfume as Practice SS19 at Lumen Crypt Gallery, London. The opportunity afforded me the chance to exhibit a solo show in London for the first time; bringing my unique approach to perfumery to a new audience.

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I went into the exhibition with no real connections with the art scene in London, aside from a handful of artists I knew or worked with previously. As such, I didn’t have any expectations of how well my work would be received, or how many people would be in attendance over the 4 days. To that end, my exhibition can be deemed a relative success; it attracted the attention of over 75 people, I sold work, the exhibition was well received and, crucially, I established new connections with people and organisations – both in and out of the art world – that may well drive future development and collaboration.

The exhibition comprised a unique blend of perfume, portraiture and astronomy, with each perfume portrait adorned with a constellation. The aim was to reveal connections between artists; highlighting the thoughts, desires and motivations that drive creative action and bolstering the creative community by highlighting commonalities. I don’t know how well such notions translated into an audience experience, as most feedback centred around the unique nature of the exhibition and the delicacy of my scent design. This in itself did prove rather revealing, however, as it confirmed that my perfume making is becoming more competent.

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Such is the nature of Lumen Crypt Gallery, using the walls is actually rather limited. This presented a challenge when designing visual work, as it had to be placed in the space with minimum intrusion. This actually made me work to a more disciplined brief and I think the work was better for it: I created a set of banners and assemblages that adhered to the theme of astronomy while enhancing the audiences’s experiences of the perfumes, resulting in a cohesive exhibition.

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Exhibiting in London provided an opportunity to establish new connections while presenting my work to a new audience. To that end I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved. But alas, I cannot dwell for too long as my next solo exhibition – at Wolverhampton’s Asylum Gallery in June – will present a whole new opportunity. Onwards and Upwards!


Perfume Portrait #92 – Garfield of London

Head – Tangerine, Peppermint20190227_193947

Heart – Lavendar, Rosemary

Body – Ylang Ylang  

Description – Inherently joyous, this fragrance embodies all that is positive about the world. Herbal and citrus notes radiate a happiness that can instantly be imparted, and this gives way to florals, which exude a more contemplative – but equally pleasurable – inner peace.

This fragrance will be exhibited alongside 9 other perfume portraits at Lumen Crypt Gallery, London, from 4th – 7th April 2019.


Perfume Portrait #91 – Isabela Castelan

Head – Pomegranate 20190227_193407

Heart -Sea salt, Nutmeg

Body – Frankincense

Description – An ode to Primordial Greek God Anake; the personification of compulsion and referencing innate yet philosophical desire to initiate creative action. From chaos, Anake creates, through action, the earth, heaven and sea. As such this fragrance houses all three of these elements, from it’s symbolic top notes to it’s earthy base.

This fragrance will be exhibited alongside 9 other perfume portraits at Lumen Crypt Gallery, London from 4th – 7th April.