playing with perfume | speculating on studio spaces | commenting with candles

Posts tagged “comment

Scents of Our Time at Access Space

For the first 3 weeks of July I undertook a residency at Access Space, Sheffield entitled ‘Scents of Our Time’ which saw me utilise candle making to respond to the news events of the day.

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The residency seeks 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.

I didn’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, but I did feel rather buoyed by the opportunity, as it was the first public outing of Scents of Our Time.

Weeks 1 and 2 focused primarily on the production of candles as well as the production of visual material:

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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.

I 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.

The 3rd and final week 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.

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Scents of Our Time – Closing Evening

I’ve been an artist in residence at Access Space for two weeks now, responding to news topics of the day through the unusual art form of candle making. Find out more about my thoughts and processes this coming Wednesday at Access Space from 5.30pm! full details here:

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I hope you can join me!


Scents of Our Time #2 – Fields of Wheat

All the fun and frolics of the outdoors without the indignity of displeasing any farmers, Fields of Wheat lets you unleash your naughty side with the earthy, heartening aroma of cut grass, pine needle and carrot seed. Perfect for when entertaining a politically-charged dinner party.

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Scents of Our Time is an ongoing series of work that explores the capacity scent has for social, moral and political commentary in relation to everyday life.


The Ease of Online Criticism

I have burst onto the Sheffield art scene in irresistible fashion and have penetrated collective consciousness the same way a frozen shard of piss is able to penetrate a rotten lump of lettuce. Now that I’m fully immersed in my own practice I am able to destroy the boundaries of what Still Life can be with an informed approach and captivating methodology. And those who say otherwise are just embittered and washed up old relics who are nostalgic for the art of forty years ago because that’s the last time they were relevant.

Of course, this is a crass and grossly exaggerated account of my endeavours – it is grounded in a little truth, but fundamentally unfounded and overblown. It is done for effect; with the view that it will initially engage the reader and allow them to further regard my practice. It’s a tool that I utilise in order to register and sustain the interest of an established audience. Indeed, when I attach a little irreverence to the posts I write, I find my audience is able to grow. Though of course, the more people are aware of your practice, the more subject you are to criticism.

The use of social networking makes it easier to be seen by an audience - and easy to find those that will not like what you do.

Social networking makes it easier to be seen by an audience – and easier to find those that will dislike your work.

Now, criticism is indeed very useful as it enables the artist to retain the focus of their approach, to develop professionally and to gain an informed critical analysis of their conceptual dealings. However, increasingly what I’ve found when faced with criticism is that the critique in question is irrelevant to your practice, and is in fact a product of the vanity and ego of the critic involved. Usually, self-promotion is the key instigator as to why people feel the need to provide you with critique. All they offer is insight into their own work which bares no relevance to yours.

It is very easy to criticise without actually offering any advice, insight or intelligent thought. This is especially true online, where any old sod is able to bash away at a computer and spill out a dribble of barely comprehensible words.

Anyway, over the last few weeks I’ve been documenting attempts people have made of criticising my practice. You might well be able to relate to my experiences, or at least, made aware of the type of alleged criticisms out there. Here are my findings:

  • A lot of people are bitter.
  • A lot of people are elitist snobs.
  • A lot of people have a firm idea of what ‘art’ should be, and won’t accept new directions.
  • A lot of people will simply look at your work without reading any context or conceptual grounding, yet will offer critique based entirely on face-value.
  • Those critical of your work attempt to reinforce their statements with their own approach to practice, which offers nothing except insight into their own work.
  • Those who disregard the point of your work and begin to ask questions of grandeur and subjectivity do so because, within the realm of subjectivity, they are able to always be right.
  • If you offer one piece of work for criticism, it is instantly regarded as the absolute pinnacle of your practice, and therefore evaluated as such.
  • Someone who’s critical of your approach is so because it challenges the validity of their approach.
  • It’s easy to feign intelligence by asking questions loaded with subjectivity and contradicting any answers given – but it offers nothing other than vanity and ego.
  • If your work is seen to be challenging and innovative, there will be those to feel the need to criticise you in order to defend the stoic, antiquated and irrelevant nature of their established and painfully comfortable approach.
  • There will be those who offer quotations from artists who died 50 years ago as suitable critique. Serving to highlight their disengagement with the present world.

So, if you ever find any of the above points a constant in the criticism you face, it’s probably best to just dismiss it as attention seeking, or to ignore it, or just find it amusing. And for anyone out there who finds themselves partaking in such criticism – it is time to resign yourselves to obscurity: And what I’m secretly hoping for is for those people to have only read the first paragraph of this post, before bombarding me with a crass, unfounded and overblown analysis of my endeavours.