As my exhibition at Bank Street Arts – entitled Perfume as Practice – approaches thoughts swiftly turn towards, well, just about everything you can imagine that involves holding a solo exhibition. From the physical amount of work the space is able to contain to the stark reality of spending 22 hours each day promoting the bloody thing. (Whilst secretly rather enjoying every moment of it.)
Perhaps more pertinently, however, thoughts turn towards props and authenticity. As is becoming a staple facet of my work, the installation needs to have a sense of gravitas and authenticity in order to pull off a convincing impression. The audience needs to believe that they are entering a perfume shop before allowing the piece to reveal itself as a space that is displaying portraiture and using scent as a primary means of engagement.
To achieve this I need props – the first of which being a lovely serving bell (purchased from The Vaults, Sheffield) which effortlessly gives the appearance of a shop. Secondly, an old perfume bottle (from Vintedge, Sheffield) which I intend to display alongside others in an effort to give the space a sense of history and heritage.
So, with props in mind, I begin to familiarise myself with – and make sense of – the space I am using. It has a door that opens to the street, offering the possibility of designing a space that appears isolated from the rest of Bank Street Arts and as such, can be designed akin to a dedicated perfume shop.
Within the space itself, the perfumes need to be arranged close enough so that they can initiate a connection and correspondence with each other and as such, an audience. Yet I also want to allow an audience to isolate each bottle visually, offering the audience a means of thought, contemplation and reflection upon individual portraits whilst also acting as subversion on the pre-conceptual attitudes towards shop spaces – often void of such tranquillity and escapism.
As mentioned, it is scent here that takes president and time will tell as to whether the sparing but prudent placing of visual objects is offset by the interactive activity of spraying perfume and allowing scent to fill the space. Will a beautiful scented sculpture ensue? Hopefully.