Perfume as Practice – my current artist’s residency at Orchard Square, Sheffield – affords me one month housed in what is nominally a retail unit in the heart of Sheffield city centre. Positioned in between Starbucks and Waterstones, my residency aims to confound expectations of another product with highly commercial connotations – perfume. My residency provides other artists with a free consultancy service, and the perfumes will be designed as an intimate and direct response to the thoughts, desires and personalities revealed by the artists willing to participate in the process. The perfumes will then be displayed as portraits that capture the essence of artists living and working in Sheffield’s collective communities.
I want my audience to be directed to alternative ways of considering perfume and what perfume can accommodate within a contemporary art context. But I also want to challenge preconceived notions of how artists occupy public spaces.
But while this is all well and good, I need some kind of audience. So what of it? Well, footfall is a little low but the effectiveness of word-of-mouth is not to be underestimated; around half of my visitors have attended due to hearing about it from their friends. Constant pushing of the project on social media has also attracted attention and as such I have set myself a target of being able to create 30 perfume portraits within the space before the residency ends.
This is a reasonable target and one that will eclipse the ‘most amount of perfume I’ve exhibited at one exhibition’ record set by my first ever Perfume as Practice solo show at Bank Street Arts last year. But it’s a target that I strive towards as it will provide confirmation of a well-attended residency. Whether it’s a well-regarded residency or not will rely on continued efforts by myself to make it the best it can be.
The residency has also presented another somewhat unexpected challenge – that of remaining fully engaged and proactive throughout the duration: As every day of October will involve either working in my residency or working in other employment, I seek to take measures to prevent mental and physical fatigue. I have, for example, changed my diet a little in order to distribute an even amount of energy throughout the day. I’ve also tried (with varying degrees of success) to cut out junk foods. This sort of physical challenge is a somewhat unexpected quirk, but frankly I’m enjoying living a healthier lifestyle and find that it informs my mental aptitude when creating perfumes with immediacy and in situ.
So, onwards and upwards! I still have over two weeks occupying Orchard Square. So please pop in if you can. And if you’re an artist, take advantage of my services and have a perfume portrait made for you. For free!
Perfume as Practice makes an appearance in Sheffield this weekend in the guise of a stall at Wadsley Festival. As such, I have spent the last few weeks preparing a variety of new works – both scented and unscented!
My aim at the festival is to provide an audience with an alternative way of looking at perfume, the craft of perfumery and how scent can be a viable and potent form of communication. I will be showcasing a variety of perfume portraits, demonstrating the perfume making process and presenting visual ways of depicting the virtues of perfumery and it’s capacity for identity, narrative and metaphor.
I’m well into my second year of Perfume as Practice yet what continues to strike me is it’s versatility and the many levels of engagement it provides. Within one month my perfume-based endeavours have depicted Bone Cancer stories, have provided a conceptually-charged representation of knowledge, have used fragrance to describe identity with reference to travel and finally have returned to the notion of portraiture. And yet I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of possibilities. So, onwards and upwards!