This October saw me stage my ninth Perfume as Practice exhibition, which was held at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol and featured 18 perfumes, each a portrait of another artist and created using my well-established process that begins by asking artists the question ‘why do you make art?’ then responding to the answer received through scent design; capturing the essence of the artist.
As well as the core principle of subverting our expectations of perfumery by placing it in a contemporary art context, each Perfume as Practice exhibition strives to develop the project as a whole. Previously this has included incorporating visual elements, working towards specific themes and even placing the project alongside the work of another artist: All of which aimed to devise and assess different ways visitors may encounter perfume in a contemporary art space.
So, what was it about this incarnation that developed the project? Well, this was the first time that the perfume portraits were exhibited alongside visual work created by the artists themselves. So the audience encountered 18 perfume portraits and 18 corresponding works of art, and as such they were able to associate the perfumes with the artists involved in a direct and meaningful way.
This added a new and welcome dimension to Perfume as Practice, as visitors took visible delight in connecting each perfume to each visual piece and ascertaining how I arrived at each perfume portrait. This actually made my perfume making process all the more transparent, as I was able to physically show audiences the work of each artist, and each artist elicited a presence within the exhibition. It was also interesting to witness audiences utilising both scent and vision to fully experience the exhibition; intuitively connecting one sense to another through engagement with art.
Was it the most accomplished Perfume as Practice incarnation? Quite possibly. Though that’s thanks in no small part to the artists themselves, who were as follows:
Heather Fiona Martin
It was also fantastic to exhibit at Centrespace, which is a wonderful gallery (you should check it out, seriously!) I would like to thank Arts Council England for their support too.
So now to secure a few gallery spaces for Perfume as Practice in 2020…
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.
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:
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.
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.
Fronteer – an arts initiative by myself and Sharon Mossbeck – presents Botanicals, a group exhibition featuring art work relating to a botanical theme.
The theme can be interpreted however you wish, and does not need to be overtly botanical. Work can be in any medium, either 2D or sculptural. The exhibition will not include any video or audio works.
We are looking for high quality work to form a stylised exhibition with an exhibition catalogue to accompany it. The exhibition will take place in the newly refurbished North Gallery at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield for three weeks in July 2019.
Artists from all backgrounds are invited to submit one piece of work (or a set of pieces which amount to one work, e.g. a triptych). It is free to submit, with only those artists who are successful paying a £30 entry fee, and this includes a copy of the exhibition catalogue.
Work must be complete at the time of submission. Work can be offered for sale during the exhibition, and we will charge 10% commission.
The deadline for submissions is 10pm on Sunday 14th April and successful artists will be notified by email by Sunday 28th April.
If successful, you will be invited to send or deliver your work to Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield, UK, where Fronteer is based. Your work must reach us by no later than Friday 14th June. If you wish to bring your work in person you can do so on 2nd or 3rd July, 11am-4pm.
The £30 entry fee for successful artists can be paid via Paypal or bank transfer by Friday 14th June (midnight). You can also pay in cash in person on 2nd or 3rd July 11am-4pm.
The exhibition will run from Monday 8th – Sat 27th July, 11-4 daily (except Sundays), with a related programme of events taking place throughout.
How to Submit
Artists are invited to submit ONE piece of work.
Work can be 2D or 3D, though unfortunately we cannot accept video or audio works. Works which require hanging must be ready to hang with mirror plates or picture wire already attached.
If successful your work will be featured in an exhibition catalogue. As such, we are require the photographs which accompany your submission to sent as jpegs at 300 dpi, and images should be between 1mb and 3mb.
Please submit by email to firstname.lastname@example.org along with the following:
- Your name
- Title of the piece
- Dimensions of the piece
- Up to 3 300dpi images of your piece
- If your work will be offered for sale, and if so, what price.
- Up to 50 words about the work, written in the third person (this text will be included in the catalogue if you are successful)
- Up to 50 words about yourself, written in the third person (this text will be included in the catalogue if you are successful)
All work must be complete at the time of submission. Any work which varies from the original piece submitted will be rejected. It is important that images submitted should fit the specifications outlined. If you enter more than one submission, all of your entries will be rejected. If you wish to submit a print, it will be your responsibility to print it off before posting it to us.
Thank you and good luck!
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Over the last month myself and Sharon Mossbeck – under our arts initiative Fronteer – have been busy organising, curating and promoting an open call exhibition and arts prize, entitled The Fronteer Open 2018. Sadly, this has now come to an end, but we hope to be back again next year with slightly amended plans and bigger prizes. Here’s a bit more information about the exhibition and how it all went.
We had around 550 visitors come through the exhibition, including around 100 visitors to the Private View. If you didn’t make it along to the Awards Evening, and you haven’t yet seen it on social media, our winning artists are:
Professional Winner: Caroline Greyling, One Second in Covent Garden
Amateur Winner: Susan Wright, Contours 2
Student Winner: Charlie Ottaway, Fish and Chips, By the Sea
People’s Choice Winner: Philip Lee, We Are All Wanderers
We were so impressed with the standard of work throughout the exhibition, and we hope that you all consider yourselves as winners for getting into the exhibition out of the more than 120 entries we received.
The feedback has been fantastic, with many visitors coming specially to see the exhibition. Everyone we have spoken to has said that the exhibition was excellent, the standard of work was really high, and the diversity of the work meant that there was something for everyone, so very well done to you all, and thank you for being involved.
We received more than 150 votes in the People’s Choice Award, and people really engaged with the exhibition when they decided to vote. The voting was spread pretty evenly across the exhibition, with every piece of work in the exhibition receiving at least one vote.
For a comprehensive collection of photos, take a look at our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/FronteerArt/
We cannot wait to deliver more open call opportunities next year!
This open call has now closed
Fronteer (an arts collaborative initiated by myself and Sharon Mossbeck) presents The Fronteer Open, an open call to submit work for an exhibition at 35 Chapel Walk, Sheffield from November 19th – December 2nd 2018. With the opportunity to win cash prizes of up to £200.
Artists are free to submit a piece of work on any theme they wish, which will then be separated into the following categories; Amateur, Professional and Student. Artists will be responsible for choosing which category they feel they belong to, with a prize of £100 for the winning artist in each category. There will also be a People’s Choice audience vote, with the work that receives the most votes being awarded a prize.
The open call is open to all artists except for staff and volunteers working at 35 Chapel Walk, who are unfortunately exempt.
The open call is free to enter, and artists are invited to submit one piece of work for consideration. Work can be 2D or sculptural, and can be no larger than 75cm across any one side. Unfortunately, we cannot accept video or audio works.
If successful, your work will be subject to a £15 charge, which will apply only if your work is selected. Work must already be complete at the time of submission.
Work can be offered for sale at the exhibition if you wish, and no commission will be charged for sales. Fronteer will put buyers in touch with artists to make arrangements for payment, although work must remain in the exhibition for its duration.
The deadline for submissions is 10pm on Friday 12th October and successful artists will be notified by email on Friday 19th October.
If successful, you will be invited to send or deliver your work to Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield, UK, where Fronteer is based. The £15 can be paid via Paypal or bank transfer by 16th November, or in cash if you are delivering work by hand.
If successful, your work must reach us by no later than Friday 16th November. The exhibition will be held at 35 Chapel Walk, Sheffield between 19th November and 3rd December. There will be an open evening, which will incorporate prize giving, on Friday 30th November.
After the exhibition, artists will be responsible for the return of their work. Artists can collect their own work from Chapel Walk on 3rd December, or from Exchange Place Studios on either 7th or 8th December. You can also arrange for your work to returned by post at your own cost. Please allow up to 2 months (3rd February 2019) following the exhibition for the return of work.
We do not have the facilities to store work, and any work which has not been collected, or had arrangements made for return postage after 2 months (3rdFebruary) will be disposed of.
£400 worth of prizes will be given away to artists during the exhibition, and will be broken down as follows:
- £100 for Best Amateur
- £100 for Best Student
- £100 for Best Professional
- £100 People’s Choice Award
This means there is a maximum prize amount of £200 available if an artist wins both their category, and the People’s Choice Award. Prizes for Best Amateur, Best Student and Best Professional works will be decided by a judging panel consisting of Fronteer founders Michael Borkowsky and Sharon Mossbeck, along with a representative from Chapel Walk. The People’s Choice Award will be voted for by the audience over the course of the exhibition, up until the open evening.
How to Submit
Artists are invited to submit ONE piece of work.
Work can be 2D or sculptural. Unfortunately, we cannot accept video or audio works. Works which require hanging must be ready to hang with mirror plates or picture wire already attached.
To submit, please email no more than 3 images of your work to email@example.com along with the following:
- Your name
- Your category (Professional, Amateur or Student)
- Title of the piece
- Dimensions of the piece (remember; the piece can be no bigger than 75cm across any one side, inclusive of frames and mounts.)
- If your work will be offered for sale, and if so, what price.
- Up to 100 words about your work (this text will not be exhibited as part of the exhibition)
All work must be complete at the time of submission. Any work which varies from the original piece submitted will be rejected. Work should fit the specifications outlined. If you wish to submit a print, it will be your responsibility to print it off before posting it to us.
Thank you and good luck!
Earlier this month I exhibited at Platforms Project, Athens as part of a group exhibition that looked at the contemplation of our solar system. I, alongside artists Sharon Mossbeck and Alison Whitmore, took 3 planets and interpreted them through our own modes of enquiry with reference to Ancient Greece.
Sharon’s work comprised painting and cross-stitch, Alison’s comprised sculptural and works and I presented 3 perfumes, each representing the Greek gods of Zeus, Kronos and Ouranos.
Platforms Project – which is an art fair – was well attended. It reached 16,000 people and our exhibition was well received. I even managed to sell a thing or two, which is great. There are, however, a few caveats with regard to my own work that should be addressed if I am to learn anything and develop from the experience. You see, after much consideration of how to translate three Greek Gods into a scented experience, I decided ultimately to play it straight – simply designing 3 perfumes that acted as portraits of each God. I assumed that this would result in a clear connection between object and concept and would transcend language barriers.
Ironically, by playing it so straight I exposed just how obtuse the notion of a perfume portrait actually is. While the audience did seem to rather like the scents and visual embellishment on display at a base level, the link between the perfumes and the Greek Gods wasn’t as clear as I thought it would be. It required further explanation, which wasn’t always easy to do due to a combination of a complex concept and the language barrier. (although this is partly my fault – I really ought to learn Greek if I’m going there every year.)
Interestingly, a volunteer who also helped out with Platforms Project last year said that she remembered the scented experience I designed last year and that, while she liked what I did this year, she loved what I did last year, which was essentially a narrative based on the notion of The Grand Tour, which incorporated scent:
So perhaps scented sculptural work designed to tell a story, rather than a straight perfume portrait, would actually be more successful in engaging a wider audience? Or maybe the Greek Gods and the complexities of their narratives would benefit from a different approach to a straight perfume portrait? Perhaps a more careful consideration of why I’m choosing specific scented designs is required, based on the concepts I’m trying to reveal.
Either way, it was once again a pleasure to exhibit at Platforms Project and naturally it was another great chance to visit a beautiful city. But maybe next time I’ll leave the perfume at home.
Last night saw the opening of Alternative Portraits – a group exhibition at Access Space, Sheffield devised by myself and Sharon Mossbeck.
The aim of Alternative Portraits was to investigate innovative depictions of portraits as well as provide a platform for artists who approach portraiture in a fresh and challenging way.
16 artists from across the UK are represented, each with their own response to the theme of ‘Alternative Portraits.’. My own contribution saw me design a perfume self portrait. This was achieved through my established process of posing the question ‘Why do you make art? then, through a method of interpretation and investigation, choosing fragrance oils and visual embellishments relevant to the response received. This process is usually reserved for other artists – it was the first time I responded to the question myself – though it was actually rather cathartic; revealing something honest about my creative output and how I wish to be perceived.
The exhibition seemed well received, with the audience citing the high quality of each work and the cohesive yet varied nature of the collection as a whole. The wide array of disciplines and approaches on display means there was something simultaneously familiar and challenging for everyone. This resulted in a rather rich experience and this is underpinned by some fantastic feedback, which we are very grateful for.
You can catch Alternative Portraits at Access Space, Sheffield, from Wednesday – Friday, 11-6, every week up until 4th October.
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’.
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.
Returning to European territory and equipped with the reverence of my experiences the raw and joyous freedom of travel begins to return. Aloof, I venture unknown through complex floral landscapes and, like a frightened deer caught in a net, lose my sense of direction.
My panicked dispositions eventually wane as I rest by a stream. I conclude that arrogance attempted to best the noble virtues of the job in hand. As I gazed at my own reflection I reconvened with my own sense of humility, less I become cursed by vanity.
Narcissus and Echo constitutes 1 artefact of 6 that I will display in a group exhibition at Platforms Project 2017 in Athens from 20th – 25th May 2017 alongside other members of Soup Collective International (SCI)