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

Posts tagged “olfactory

Desire and Alchemy

Since early September I have been working on an upcoming Perfume as Practice range of fragrances ready for exhibiting at BasementArtsProject, Leeds. It will take a departure from my usual approach and process to Perfume as Practice exhibitions. Firstly, rather than a display of portraits, my perfumes will each describe the reasons why artists make art – revealing the capacity perfume has for socially engaged creative action.

Secondly, the exhibition – entitled Desire and Alchemy – will mark the first time Perfume as Practice has been placed alongside another artist – Emilia Telese.

Desire and Alchemy

Emilia and I both have an established interest in utilising scent within our artistic practice, with the aim of revealing how scent can be a powerful and meaningful mode of communication.

My work – Entitled Perfume as Practice AW18 – will house 15 perfumes, and will take influence from alchemist practices in order to achieve desired fragrances, with the viewer invited to experience and interact with each perfume.

Telese’s work – entitled Scents of Self – will utilise Scratch and Sniff technology to explore image, pattern and body. Her work will invite the viewer to touch the artwork in order to reveal scents hidden within.

The Opening Evening will be on Friday 19th October from 7.30-9.30pm. The evening is free, and both artists on hand to discuss their work. Refreshments will also be available.

If you can make it, it would be great to see you!

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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!


Measuring Scent and Narrative

Last weekend I was part of a group exhibition at the Old Holy Trinity Church, Wentworth called ‘Measure’ – which looks at the human soul. My own offering was a scented narrative that suggests you can weigh your soul against the virtues of your job.

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This is the second outing of this particular body of work, with the first being at Sheffield Cathedral last year. I found that the informal yet contemplative space of Old Trinity Church lent itself more to audience engagement. this was evidenced by how many people took the time to look and contemplate what was in front of them. As such, conversations emerged about life, purpose, vocation, perceptions of self, perceptions of each other and indeed mortality.

It wasn’t all about Life’s Big Questions though, as the design and implementation of my work also revealed to an audience the capacity perfumery has for narrative. In this instance, the perfume I have created forms part of an installation that incorporates painting, 3D work and text. This allows my audience to directly comprehend perfumery against other more established art forms. It certainly holds it’s own and enhances the overall experience.

My next stop is Leeds for Horsforth Walk of Art, where I’ll be trialling a new idea based on perfume and emojis. Looking forward to it!


Perfume Portrait #82 – John Alfred

 John Alfred 50ml EDT

Head – Petitgrain

Heart – Fennel, ginger

Body – Sandalwood, myrrh

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Description – A fiery and masculine free spirit, this fragrance utilises the sense of mental aptitude found in woods and spices to point towards ways to innovative, create and have a little fun at the same time.

This perfume is one of fifteen housed at Bureau, Blackburn from 12th – 26th April as part of my solo exhibition, Perfume as Practice.


Perfume Portrait #71 – Sonny J. Barker

Sonny J. Barker 50ml EDT

Head – Petitgrain, lime, niaouli

Heart – Juniper berry, black pepper

Body – Ylang Ylang, Cedarwood

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Description – an affirmative fragrance that simultaneously reveals a certain vulnerability yet turns it into positive creative action. Citrus top notes brim with a focused mental capacity and, while delicate floral notes are revealed, so too are assertive spices and grounding woods. Confident yet complex.

This perfume is one of fifteen housed at Bureau, Blackburn from 12th – 26th April as part of my solo exhibition, Perfume as Practice.


A Scented Self Portrait

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’.

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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.