January always feels like a rather difficult month to instigate and artistic action. The excesses of Christmas last longer than they should; the cold winter air quells any motivation and then there’s the small matter of completing a tax return…
Luckily then, I have been able to take part in a group exhibition without hardly having to lift a finger, all thanks to no less an institution that the University of Chester – the university I graduated at in 2007.
Nice to See You to See You Nice is a group exhibition featuring work from staff, students and alumni from the University of Chester, and is housed at CASC – a fantastic contemporary space in the heart of Chester set up by the University.
My work – Seven Keys – is nestled between over 70 other artists, makers and designers each connected to Chester University. It’s great how the exhibition acts as such a social platform; the opening evening on Friday 24th January was a hive of conversations between Chester University affiliates, each brought together through artistic practice. Perhaps the exhibition will reaffirm some friendships, encourage collaborations or instigate further creative endeavour.
Seven Keys is a series of perfumes about love and lust. Presented are 7 perfumes; only one is a concoction of natural ingredients which represent the virtues of love. The rest comprise of synthetic oils and represent lust.
Seven Keys is a great introduction to the possibilities of perfumery – highlighting that with careful scent design perfume can house narrative and symbolism. The theme also lends itself to valentine’s Day, which is useful as Nice to See You to See You Nice runs until 12th March. The opening hours are Mondays – Tuesdays 10-4; Fridays 12 – 6; Saturdays 10 – 4.
Robert Verrill 50ml EDT
Head – Pomegranate
Heart – Black pepper, ginger
Body – Benzoin, myrrh
Description – A provocative and thoughtful fragrance that references Pliny the Elder and his Naturalis Historia, which was critical and challenging of the frivolity of perfume.
Verrill’s To The World with Love references travel and voyages in several ways. It is made from found materials which themselves speak of travel and journeys: corrugated cardboard from a box that would have carried some consumable product around the world; plastic binding and string which would have bound a box or container or bundle of items in transit. These materials have been on one more voyage of transformation – the cardboard soaked, perforated and rebound with the plastic binding and string to re-emerge at the destination in the form of a utilitarian, improvised handbag and strap that carries a message of hope around the world for our deliverance from environmental catastrophe.
Verrill’s work and corresponding perfume portrait were exhibited at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol, in October 2019.
Somewhere within the administrative and organisational standpoints of conceiving and curating The Court of Love, I managed to create my own work, Zodiac Man:
Zodiac Man is a speculative range of fragrances that each represent signs of the zodiac. It references and exposes the historical connections fragrance has with medicine. Indeed, in a bid to re-establish such connections, each bottle is priced at £8.40 – the current price of an NHS prescription.
A narrative exists within this piece, that suggests the body’s equilibrium – and therefore personal health and wellbeing – can be retained by acquainting yourself with the scent your lover’s star sign. If you don’t have a lover, the scent of Ophiuchus – an historically recognised 13th Star Sign – acts as a facsimile.
However, prolonged acquaintance with the piece may reveal several falsehoods. Chief among them is the fact that Ophiuchus is actually a placebo – it doesn’t contain any of the fragrance oils stated and is in fact just a bottle of scentless sweet almond oil. This may assume that the components of love cannot be meaningfully replicated, and that such a placebo must be prescribed for the psychological benefit of those without love in their lives in order to assume health and wellbeing.
Of course, such a standpoint will differ depending on one’s initial preconception of love and the notion of astrology. After all, the value of each fragrance is not decided by its components, but by the significance we place on it. And in the context of this exhibition, Zodiac Man may reveal an audience’s perception of love, how the implications of love apply to experiences, how relationships are connected to health and how the craft of perfumery has capacity for narrative.
This week has seen the opening of The Court of Love – a group art and poetry exhibition examining Valentine’s Day. The exhibition is held at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield and has been devised and curated by myself.
Initially, the exhibition was driven by purely selfish reasons – over the last two years I have neglected the chance to use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to exhibit Perfume as Practice and I didn’t wish to miss the opportunity for a third year.
However, further research into Valentine’s Day and it’s historical and social contexts saw the exhibition develop into a group show. As I wanted my work to reveal the historical connections between fragrance and medicine, it seemed pertinent to reference within the exhibition the first occurrence of Valentine’s Day; which consisted of a feast, poetry competitions and jousting. Over time I knew that a solo exhibition wouldn’t satisfy these needs.
And so, the exhibition references a Tudor Court both in its design, in its poetry competition and through some of the artists choosing to incorporate the theme in their work. The result is a collection of high quality responses to Valentine’s Day that reference the historical virtues while just being contemporary enough not to be cliched. Indeed, the responses are varied; banquets, saints, dance steps, the zodiac, cartography, graffiti, cosmic ordering, modern culture, sexual orientation and poetry are all cited as sources of inspiration.
From a curatorial perspective, I have afforded space between each work – allowing the audience to contemplate each piece as both an isolated work or within the context of the exhibition. This allows connections to emerge between each piece while simultaneously allowing each piece to exist in it’s own right. This is how I ideally like to curate as I believe it affords an audience richer and multi-faceted engagement. Logistics, or the sheer amount of work received sometimes means I have to curate with restrictions or caveats. Here, I was able to curate how I wanted and the result is a strong and confident exhibition that utilities the immersive properties of colour transform the space thematically – allowing each work to sit with cohesion and coherence beside each other.
The Court of Love once again reinforces Exchange Place Studio’s presence as an arts venue, with the poetry competition inviting a new audience through our doors. It’s important that our programme of events remains varied, supportive and nurturing to both new and established audiences. Not only does this allow us to gather momentum and reputation but the positive virtues of providing a platform for as many sets of people as possible should always be on the agenda.
As you may know, our crowdfunding campaign – which is raising funds for an artist led Valentine’s Day themed exhibition in Sheffield – is up and running and gaining momentum. The great thing about crowdfunding is that it initiates and strengthens community spirit: Giving anyone from any background the chance to become an intrinsic part of exiting artist led projects and the opportunity to directly support the arts locally and nationally. Our crowdfunding campaign is no different, and in return for your generous donation you will be cordially invited to our opening evening, credited in our exhibition and you can take advantage of some wonderful rewards handmade by the artists exhibiting – just in time for Valentine’s Day!
Indeed, whether you love Valentine’s Day or hate it, I’m sure you’ll agree that the diversity and quality of the rewards on offer is fantastic – and certainly bodes well for the exhibition! Here’s what our artists are offering as rewards:
Sharon Mossbeck – Love – £5 – Buy from here
Ever the contemporary art cross-stitcher, Sharon Mossbeck has created 10 of these simple yet elegant original postcard-sized cross stitch pieces. A perfect Valentine’s Day card alternative. Get ’em while you can!
Sharon Mossbeck – Love Token – £10 – Buy from here
For £10 you can take home this fabulous original piece of art. Gold leaf and acrylic on wood, this stylised, 4cm x 4cm depiction of an anatomical heart is the perfect alternative Valentine’s card. A wonderful chance to buy original art while backing our exhibition.
Sharon Mossbeck- Cross Stitch Kit – £10 – Buy from here
Sharon Mossbeck’s cross stitch kit provides you with everything you need to make a fair isle heart of your own. This unique reward designed entirely by Sharon herself makes an ideal Valentine’s Day gift. It can be yours for £10.
Gill Alderson – Portrait – £20 – Buy from here
Gill Alderson’s ‘Portrait’ is gold leaf and pencil on an egg shell. It is beautiful to behold and a truly unique and unusual piece of original artwork in it’s own right. This can be yours for £20, and you’ll also be cordially invited to any event we organise.
Michael Borkowsky- Love Potion – £25 (UK Only) – Buy from here
Referencing the historical links between perfume and medicine, fine art perfumer Michael Borkowsky has created a bespoke fragrance designed to attract the opposite sex while offering mental wellbeing! A blend of white musk, jasmine, vanilla, rosemary and a hint of apple in a sweet almond oil, this perfume captures the essence of sensuality and keeps your mind in good health! (UK Only)
Gill Alderson – Pendant – £35 – Buy from here
Artist Gill Alderson is offering this beautiful and intricate hand drawn pendant cast in real gold. Truly original and captivating, this can be yours for £35. A fantastic way of acquiring original work while backing the exhibition!
Sharon Hall Shipp – Constellation I – £45 – Buy from here
Constellation I is a wonderful and highly detailed original collage by artist Sharon Hall Shipp. 18x13cm mounted on thick paper, this is a captivating piece that cites dance steps, cartography, constellations and love as sources of inspiration. This is a fantastic chance to receive original art and support artists while backing our exhibition!
Lizzie Biscuits – Minimal – £100 – Buy from here
Minimal is a miniature costume wearing animal, and a much loved product of Lizzie Biscuits’ practice. Choose any animal you wish and allow Lizzie to dress them in a handmade outfit. A frog in a frock coat? A cat in a hat? A dog in a dress? Email your choice to firstname.lastname@example.org
…We hope you love some of the rewards our artists have made! If you’d like more information about our crowdfunding campaign, or would like to donate, share or get involved in some way, then click the image below
We are currently crowdfunding for The Court of Love – our upcoming art and poetry exhibition examining Valentine’s Day at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield.
The Court of Love is a group exhibition that sees artists and poets respond to the theme of Valentine’s Day. The exhibition itself is themed like a medieval court – referencing the first ever occurrence of Valentine’s Day which featured a feast, poetry competitions and jousting. Some artists have chosen to incorporate the theme in their work.
15 artists from around the UK will each deliver their unique and intriguing interpretation of Valentine’s Day. And poets who submitted to The Court of Love’s poetry competition will see their work displayed. In the spirit of competition, the public will get a chance to vote for their favorite poem, and the poet receiving the most votes will win a prize.
We hope that the exhibition provides a fun, intriguing and alternative Valentine’s Day experience. However, for the exhibition to be the best it can be, we need your help! Your contribution will pay for materials needed to stage the exhibition and a means to stage two special events. In return you can receive fantastic rewards & invitations to our events. This is also a wonderful chance to own fantastic original art works such as these:
Your donation will also help support artists and help further cement Exchange Place Studios’ presence as a prominent arts venue in Sheffield.
Click here to be sent to our crowdfunding page. Many thanks!
The Court of Love seeks poetry submissions responding to the theme of Valentine’s Day.
The Court of Love is a group exhibition due to take place at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield, from 9th – 18th February 2017. Each of the artists involved will be responding to the theme of Valentine’s Day in whatever manner they wish. The exhibition will include an opening evening and a Valentine’s Day special event.
The exhibition will be themed as a medieval banquet – referencing the first known example of a celebration of love occurring on February 14th, which involved a feast, songs, jousting and indeed poetry. As such, we are devoting an area of the exhibition to the poetry we receive from this open call: Successful poems will be printed and curated within this area and credited accordingly.
We are looking for poetry of any style and you may respond to the theme of Valentine’s Day however you wish. You may wish to reference the medieval theme but this is by no means an obligation.
If you are successful, as well as having your poem included physically within the exhibition, you will also be given the opportunity to read your poem at our Valentine’s Day event and you will be placed in a people’s choice completion, where the public get to vote on their favourite poem. The poem with the most votes will receive £25 and some chocolate. 2nd and 3rd prizes will also receive chocolate.
Please send your entries to Michael Borkowsky at email@example.com. The closing date is Sunday 29th January 2017. Good luck!