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!
During October 2017 I created 7 artists’ perfume portraits during my residency at Orchard Square, Sheffield. The process departed somewhat from what I have established in previous exhibitions; This time the artists themselves were actually present and directly engaged in the discourse surrounding their creative intentions, processes and behaviours.
This shift in my process intended to reveal the possibilities surrounding interpreting cognitive behaviours and patterns, and whether utilising such possibilities resulted in more coherent perfumery. I think the results are inconclusive as the number of perfumes created this way isn’t comprehensive enough, but I had fun all the same!
With many thanks to the artists who afforded their time for me to make their perfume portrait:
Claire Lee; Sharon Mossbeck; Brian Daines; Lyn Carrauthers; Miranda Trojanowska; Ryoko Akama; Joanine Carmelino.
Perfume as Practice – my current artist’s residency at Orchard Square, Sheffield – affords me one month housed in what is nominally a retail unit in the heart of Sheffield city centre. Positioned in between Starbucks and Waterstones, my residency aims to confound expectations of another product with highly commercial connotations – perfume. My residency provides other artists with a free consultancy service, and the perfumes will be designed as an intimate and direct response to the thoughts, desires and personalities revealed by the artists willing to participate in the process. The perfumes will then be displayed as portraits that capture the essence of artists living and working in Sheffield’s collective communities.
I want my audience to be directed to alternative ways of considering perfume and what perfume can accommodate within a contemporary art context. But I also want to challenge preconceived notions of how artists occupy public spaces.
But while this is all well and good, I need some kind of audience. So what of it? Well, footfall is a little low but the effectiveness of word-of-mouth is not to be underestimated; around half of my visitors have attended due to hearing about it from their friends. Constant pushing of the project on social media has also attracted attention and as such I have set myself a target of being able to create 30 perfume portraits within the space before the residency ends.
This is a reasonable target and one that will eclipse the ‘most amount of perfume I’ve exhibited at one exhibition’ record set by my first ever Perfume as Practice solo show at Bank Street Arts last year. But it’s a target that I strive towards as it will provide confirmation of a well-attended residency. Whether it’s a well-regarded residency or not will rely on continued efforts by myself to make it the best it can be.
The residency has also presented another somewhat unexpected challenge – that of remaining fully engaged and proactive throughout the duration: As every day of October will involve either working in my residency or working in other employment, I seek to take measures to prevent mental and physical fatigue. I have, for example, changed my diet a little in order to distribute an even amount of energy throughout the day. I’ve also tried (with varying degrees of success) to cut out junk foods. This sort of physical challenge is a somewhat unexpected quirk, but frankly I’m enjoying living a healthier lifestyle and find that it informs my mental aptitude when creating perfumes with immediacy and in situ.
So, onwards and upwards! I still have over two weeks occupying Orchard Square. So please pop in if you can. And if you’re an artist, take advantage of my services and have a perfume portrait made for you. For free!
October sees me occupy a craft unit in Orchard Square, Sheffield as part of a Perfume as Practice artist’s residency. I will be creating bespoke perfumes in the space itself, in an effort to celebrate the art of perfumery and explore the possibilities of scent.
Perfume as Practice will see me craft many diverse and individual perfumes, each a portrait of another artist. I will create these perfume portraits through a one-on-one consultancy with any willing artist that comes through the door. The consultancy will involve a series of questions and tests to determine the personalities and creative desires of artists, the responses and results of which will be immediately analysed and interpreted in order to create meaningful fragrances that capture the essence of who each artist is.
Whether you’re an artist or not, Perfume as Practice will provide fantastic opportunity to find out more about artistic approaches to perfume making, discover the craft of creating fragrances and become acquainted with any perfumes I have made during the residency at any given time. Just like any other means of portraiture, each perfume will be unique, complex and highly personal, yet will allow an audience to interpret them in their own way. By utilising the craft of perfumery, Perfume as Practice also highlights alternative ways of thinking about portraiture, scent and art in general!
Opening Times and Events
Perfume as Practice runs from 30th September – 28th October 2017 on the first floor of Orchard Square (nestled between the first floors of Waterstones and Starbucks). It will be open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 12-4pm, and Sunday 12-2pm.
There will also be a closing event on Thursday 26th October, from 5-7pm. This event will see me provide an artist talk, explaining the ideas and processes behind Perfume as Practice. During this event all of the perfumes created through the residency will be on display. This will allow an audience to acquaint themselves, through scent, with the collective thoughts, desires and personalities of artists from Sheffield and beyond. Participating artist can also use this opportunity to take their perfume portraits home.
Perfume Making Workshops.
Perfume as Practice will run 2 Perfume Making Workshops. These workshops give participants a fantastic opportunity to find out more about my approach to perfumery, create a perfume of their own and explore the possibilities of fragrance. These workshops will take place on Saturday 7th October, 2-4pm and Saturday 21st October, 2-4pm.
Workshops cost £5 per person, all materials are provided. Spaces are limited so to book you must email Michael on firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.
hope to see you there!
Nestled between three established perfume retailers, October will see me take up an artists’ residence in Orchard Square, Sheffield. Nominally a retail unit, my residency will hope to subvert preconceptions of fragrance, which is steeped in consumerism and profit. It will instead highlight the capacity perfume has for portraiture, and will offer an alternative function for fragrance, placing it as a potent means of communication.
Watch this space.
…that’s the question I want you to answer!
Perfume As Practice, my research-led residency at Bank Street Arts, is really beginning to take shape. I find myself in between crowd-funding reward fulfilment and waiting for materials to arrive. This has provided me with a period of reflection, of clarifying and internalising my ideas. And one thing that has struck me is the fact that I ought to ask people why they wear perfume: After all, my project is about exploring the parallels between why people make art and why people wear perfume, and being able to investigate where art and perfume intersect, using research and evidence, will give the project extra weight and sincerity.
So, I am looking for people to answer the question ‘why do you wear perfume/cologne?’ I will then compile your responses into a set of paintings, which will be exhibited alongside my perfume portraits at Bank Street Arts early next year. So, if you could answer my question, that’d be great! 🙂
Now that I have a firm idea of the direction I want ‘Perfume as Practice’ to go in, I have decided to create this blog post, listing frequently asked questions about the project. Why? Well aside from the fact that writing all these questions down helps me focus my thoughts, it also gives everyone the opportunity to further understand and clarify my project. If these answers don’t do anything to resolve any query you have about Perfume as Practice, please feel free to get in touch by emailing email@example.com. Many thanks!
So why perfume?
Well physically creating a perfume isn’t all that different from creating a painting. The essential oils act as colour, and mixing them together allows you to create something meaningful and coherent. There is certainly potential and intrigue in aligning the status of perfume to the status of painting, which could unlock the possibilities of perfume and what perfume can be.
But isn’t Perfume just about memory, sex or wanting to smell kinda nice?
Well, what if it wasn’t? Part of my concerns as an artist is providing alternatives to preconceptions, allowing us to assess and understand objects, thoughts and concepts differently. Indeed, I would suggest that my project speculates how art would exist should scent be the primary means of experiencing the world. How would art and how would artists adapt to this? …I’d say that it is pretty logical to suggest that perfume would become a viable and meaningful means of expression.
Isn’t scent-based work in art sort of gimmicky?
I can understand your point of view here, because I believe that scent in art has been somewhat misrepresented: It is presented as gimmicky. This is mainly due to the fact that scent is a relatively unknown and mysterious sense. But it is nevertheless still a means of experiencing the world. Scent still enables us to process information, identify with the world and enable social interactions. Historically, scent has been essential for survival, and something of that instinct still exists. There is a value to scent that transcends the preconception that is is somewhat auxiliary and frivolous. Art has pandered to this frivolity, but it doesn’t have to. It can treat scent in a similar manner to vision. They are both universal and identifiable ways of experiencing the world, after all.
Why are you specifically trying to make portraiture with your perfumes?
It’s more a question of why I’m using perfume as a vehicle for portraiture, and the reason is to allow perfume to act in the opposite manner to it’s expectations. Using perfume as a vehicle for portraiture means that – rather than using perfume as a tool to mask, alter or embellish identity – it will instead be a tool for unmasking and uncovering identity; for capturing the essence of someone and attempting to answer the question of who someone is in a tangible, meaningful and innovative way.
But why do you want to ‘unmask’ artists?
A few reasons. Possibly some of the reasons are quite introspective as I myself feel like an actor rather than an artist – masquerading as a cook when considering food; an alchemist when considering paint; and now a perfumer when considering perfume. Perhaps this journey is more a social investigation – to uncover the different social groups found within art in attempt to feel included and to allow others to feel included, and to be in the knowledge that there are people like them.
…but do keep in mind that, again, I am looking to investigate the possibilities of perfume. If perfume can act against it’s preconceptions, then it will further our understanding of it – allowing us to experience perfumery in a new, informed and engaging way.
Why are you using artists rather than just anyone to make a ‘perfume portrait’ from?
Because I have a theory that there is an inherent parallel between why art is made and why perfume is worn. Both can act as a mask – a tool people use to behave, interact and express themselves in a certain manner for a certain effect. I think there is a rich vein of intrigue to be explored there, as the parallels can be embraced or disrupted for desired creative ends.
And why artists rather than artists’ work?
I believe that artwork is an extension of the artist, but probing and investigating artwork alone will fail to address the individual and therefore the true nature of portraiture.
So, if I were to spray some of your perfumes on myself, what would I be wearing?
You would be wearing an artists’ answer to the question what makes them an artist, and as such it would allow you to essentially masquerade as an artist with predefined concerns and thoughts. It’s a sort of wearable and tangible form of portraiture that an audience can exploit. Of course, this opens up questions of identity, authorship and ownership, but keep in mind that my perfumes behave differently to convention – as they have captured a raw, sincere and unmasked essence of an individual. This means that you would be wearing all of the artists’ fears, vulnerabilities, insecurities and concerns that make them do the things they do.
Why are you specifically asking the question ‘what defines you as an artist?’
Well, it’s a deliberately open question that is open to broad interpretation. The idea is to not necessarily take the answer given at face value, but rather to probe, ask further questions and examine the artists’ creative output. If I were to make conventional portraiture, questions like this would be essential to capturing the true essence of people: It would act as a relevant starting point, enabling me to create a portrait that would combine personal truths, traits and confessions with analysis, deduction, and interpretation – thus making a meaningful social observation. It’s no different here.
What defines you as an artist?
I think providing alternatives to preconceived concepts and the idea that my work could further, alter, question or reinforce a perception of the world is my defining characteristic. It is certainly why I make the art I make. I also believe that providing alternatives can instigate change which, on a grandiose level, can act as a potent social, moral, ethical or political force. Though also on a personal level, assessing things differently can be healthy, can further your relationship with the world and make you feel connected in ways previously unimaginable. So take from that what you will – and make a perfume from it if you like!
If we think of the reasons why an idea within creative practice remains unfinished, the implications are that the artist thinks the idea cannot be fully realised within any context or space. Possibly because it is too vague an idea, too fragmented, not applicable in relation to other output or perhaps just a little too tired, trite or contrived.
At the same time, perfume exists in a space that cannot quite be considered fine art. It exists in a way similar to how craft beer or gastro-food exists: Yes, there is a great deal of skill and artistry involved, but there is a certain element lacking – whether that be aesthetic, spiritual or intellectual – that removes perfume from a fine art context. Perhaps it’s because perfume largely exists as a product and, as such, does what it is supposed to do at face value. It largely doesn’t attempt to communicate any concepts that would allow it to be comprehended and engaged with for more than the sum of it’s parts. You may argue that it doesn’t need to. But my suggestion is that it could and, if it could, it may provide a new way of understanding non-visual experiences.
Halted ideas and perfume may well be able to compliment each other and as such, develop our thoughts towards the nature of non-visual ways of relating to the world. Indeed, perfume could provide an ideal metaphor for an idea that can’t reach fruition: Such an idea exists bottled up inside your mind and when considered it surrounds you with thoughts, feelings and recalled experiences that are not fully understood and will again disappear. This echos how a spray of perfume initially bursts onto the scene, full and flavorful yet in a way not fully understood, before disappearing into obscurity.
Halted ideas and perfume are both two entities that are just shy of being comprehended as a means of fine art. They cannot quite harness abstract thought and as such, cannot quite engage an audience with moral, social, political or experiential potency which I believe is fundamental in the transience from art to fine art.
Perhaps the issue is that perfumes and halted ideas exist in ways which have to be knowingly imagined – they can’t be directly comprehended as there is a degree of intangibility. Combining both within some kind of art practice will probably not suddenly allow them to be tangible but will instead suggest that they can be directly comprehended despite intangibility. They will become enhanced, loaded with each others’ connotations, and as such our understanding of both the nature of perfume and the nature of creative processes will be furthered.
I would suggest that utilising both within creative practice provides perfume with a means to transcend it’s face value and allows unfulfilled ideas to finally exist in a space where they can be engaged with. Thus providing an audience with a new way to regard both entities and a new way for both entities to exist relative to each other. It may also allow the artist to reflect on the very nature of ideas, how they can be formed and what shape they could take – even a shape that they might not recognise or identify with.
So, why the hell am I tell you all this? Well, because such thoughts will form a basis for my year-long research-led residency at Bank Street Arts. The residency initially emerged as a way to further my paint-making exploits, but has since evolved into something which sees me finally make a meaningful transition away from paint and into the nature of utilising scent within artistic practice – something I have been skirting around for years but now have a strong platform from which to develop.
I seek to investigate how creative processes can be applied to the nature of perfumery in a way that is beneficial and meaningful. I would like to answer questions both of how halted ideas can become realised and how the nature of perfumery can be applied to fine art in a coherent way. Along the way I might well come along questions concerning reliance on vision, how the concept of the 5 senses is outdated and how ideas can be re-contextualised as products. For now, though, I am looking for artists to provide me with ideas that have halted somewhere within the creative process which I will create a perfume from. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you do have any ideas. Many thanks 🙂