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.
Head – Red Thyme, Bay Leaf
Heart – Marjoram
Body – Patchouli
Description – From leaves harvested at specific times to reveal specific scents to a consistent, earthy bed of patchouli, this fragrance is an ode to the seasons; referencing the transient beauty of nature while revealing its workings and processes.
This fragrance will be exhibited alongside 9 other perfume portraits at Lumen Crypt Gallery, London, from 4th – 7th April 2019.
Head – Cotton, Cut Grass
Heart – Geranium, Dandelion
Body – Ylang Ylang, Patchouli
Description – A description of a calming, expansive landscape, this balanced fragrance elicits the capacity scent has for communication while connecting you to nature.
This perfume will be exhibited alongside 9 other perfume portraits at Lumen Crypt Gallery, London, from 4 – 7th April 2019
I would like to invite you to the Private View of Perfume as Practice SS19 – my solo exhibition at Lumen Crypt Gallery, London, on Thursday 4th April 2019, 6.30-8.30pm.
Perfume as Practice SS19 will house 10 bespoke perfumes, each a portrait of another artist. I these perfume portraits by asking artists ‘why do you make art?’ I then use scent design and visual embellishment to respond to the response received. The exhibition will also house an astronomical theme; every perfume portrait will symbolise a constellation.
The aim of the exhibition is to reveal the capacity perfumery has for contemporary art and how scent can be a viable and meaningful mode of communication.
During the private view I will be on hand to chat to, and I will provide an artist’s talk to reveal some of the thoughts, desires and processes that drive Perfume as Practice. Refreshments will also be available.
If you can’t make it to the private view, the exhibition is also open between 4th-7th April from 12-6pm each day. The full address of the exhibition space is Lumen Crypt Gallery, St John On Bethnal Green, 200 Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9PA. Entry to the exhibition, including the private view, is free. And do feel free to invite and bring who you like along with you.
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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Looking back on my creative output over the last year, I’d have to conclude that I have had a relatively successful 2018 – I have delivered on my promise of staging two Perfume as Practice shows a year, immersed myself in the possibilities of candle making in contemporary art, and have reached new audiences both nationally and internationally. So I guess I can’t complain!
This year, I endeavoured to stage both Perfume as Practice shows outside Sheffield. This was an effort to extend my audience reach and introduce new sets of people to the artistic possibilities of perfumery. To that end, I have been successful, as my shows were staged at BasementArtsProject, Leeds, and Bureau Centre for the Arts, Blackburn. (In fact, you can still see my work at BasementArtsProject until the end of January!)
I wanted to see a tangible development in Perfume as Practice – both in terms of the quality of the perfumes made and audience expectation. This was achieved by placing Perfume as Practice in contexts and spaces previously untapped: My exhibition in Blackburn placed perfumery within the context of religion while my exhibition in Leeds was a joint show, placing Perfume as Practice alongside the work of artist Emilia Telese.
One of the failures of my 2017 was that I involved myself in too many group exhibitions, thus compromising the quality of my output. This has been rectified this year as I have carefully selected opportunities relevant to the development of my practice.
I also embarked on a new project; Scents of Our Time. This took the guise of a residency at Access Space and a solo show at Mugen Tea House. In hindsight, the process of using candle making to describe news stories is very immersive, and probably works best as a residency. I think the jury is still out on how an audience responds to it, but there is certainly a lot of potential in the idea and I will seek new opportunities to develop the idea in the new year.
I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in making my 2018 such a success and, actually, a very enjoyable year. I think I feel completely at ease with Perfume as Practice as an idea, and now just seek to hone it, push it in new directions and reach new audiences.
2019 promises to be rather exciting – it will see me stage my first solo show in London, embark on new Perfume as Practice shows in Wolverhampton and Bristol, and continue to stage events and workshops that provide an insight into my unique approach to perfume making and ways of utilising scent in art. Looking forward to it!
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.
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:
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.
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:
I hope you can join me!
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.
Head – Elemi, Lime, Cotton
Heart – Black Pepper, Ginger
Body – Patchouli, Cumin Seed
Full of unwavering energy; the initial blast of lime, compounded dry the earthy readiness of patchouli and the potency of cumin seed describes the electric effects of thunder and lightning. This is offset by the woody accord of Elemi, referencing Zeus’ hidden childhood suspended from a tree. Black Pepper and Ginger forms a heart shared with Kronos and Ouranos; referencing family connections. Cotton, alludes to Zeus’s overseeing of the sky.
This fragrance is on display during Platforms Project 2018 at Athens School of Fine Arts.