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.
Yesterday marked the opening of Transitions – a group exhibition and pop-up shop at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield, that looks at creative processes.
As creative processes can be approached, considered and acted upon in almost countless ways, it stands to reason that the exhibition is very diverse with a wide range of disciplines accounted for. Each artist has offered a window into their processes which enables discussion, illumination and agency while also highlighting the array of skills and talents housed at Exchange Place Studios.
And my own work, which places the craft of perfumery in the context of a museum artifact, also seems well received. Exposing the process of perfume making with such transparency communicates the possibilities of fragrance in an open and direct way. Enabling an informed and frank understanding of the process which maintains the spirit of the exhibition.
You can catch Transitions from now until 10th May at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield.
Almost three weeks has past since Perfume as Practice – my exhibition at Bank Street Arts – closed. It’s been a reasonably quiet period, comprising chiefly of plotting further navigations into the world of perfumery. Something persistent from the exhibition that I keep mentally revisiting is the idea that, although Perfume as Practice was successful and very well received, I still feel as though I could improve it.
It’s just as well, seeing as it was the first time I outwardly projected my approach to perfumery. I know full well that the quality of the perfume, while ok, still lacked a degree of authenticity needed to propel the exhibition from an arts space to a speculative perfumery space. This is something I wanted to do as to engage a wider audience.
I wanted the exhibition to reveal itself as a fine art endeavour, while initially appearing as a perfume shop. I wanted to do this as to reassess the virtues of a shop space, how we experience and identify with consumer products and how we can disrupt this process. In reality, I think my audience simply entered the space knowing it was an art exhibition about perfume. Perhaps a different approach to marketing was required, along with better quality bottles. I suppose it doesn’t matter too much, though it is important to understand the failings of an exhibition if you are to progress.
And what of the idea of creating perfume portraits? Well, I feel slightly conflicted about it. You see, I tend to strive for new ideas without attempting to define and develop them. It almost feels counter-intuitive to persist with the idea of perfume portraits, as my mind is filled with other ideas I wish to explore.
Though persist I certainly will. I do feel rather buoyed about just how well the exhibition was received. The idea of making portraits from perfume is very accessible yet innovative, and this is still the case. Therefore it seems correct to continue creating perfume portraits and attempting to extend our knowledge of what scent, perfume and portraiture can be.
Perhaps – heaven forbid – I am displaying a little maturity with Perfume as Practice. 5 years ago, I would have flitted between ideas without attempting to refine, define or meaningfully develop. A more disciplined head is telling me that developing the idea of perfume portraits will engage a wide audience whilst still striving for innovative and exciting ways of making art.
As my exhibition at Bank Street Arts – entitled Perfume as Practice – approaches thoughts swiftly turn towards, well, just about everything you can imagine that involves holding a solo exhibition. From the physical amount of work the space is able to contain to the stark reality of spending 22 hours each day promoting the bloody thing. (Whilst secretly rather enjoying every moment of it.)
Perhaps more pertinently, however, thoughts turn towards props and authenticity. As is becoming a staple facet of my work, the installation needs to have a sense of gravitas and authenticity in order to pull off a convincing impression. The audience needs to believe that they are entering a perfume shop before allowing the piece to reveal itself as a space that is displaying portraiture and using scent as a primary means of engagement.
To achieve this I need props – the first of which being a lovely serving bell (purchased from The Vaults, Sheffield) which effortlessly gives the appearance of a shop. Secondly, an old perfume bottle (from Vintedge, Sheffield) which I intend to display alongside others in an effort to give the space a sense of history and heritage.
So, with props in mind, I begin to familiarise myself with – and make sense of – the space I am using. It has a door that opens to the street, offering the possibility of designing a space that appears isolated from the rest of Bank Street Arts and as such, can be designed akin to a dedicated perfume shop.
Within the space itself, the perfumes need to be arranged close enough so that they can initiate a connection and correspondence with each other and as such, an audience. Yet I also want to allow an audience to isolate each bottle visually, offering the audience a means of thought, contemplation and reflection upon individual portraits whilst also acting as subversion on the pre-conceptual attitudes towards shop spaces – often void of such tranquillity and escapism.
As mentioned, it is scent here that takes president and time will tell as to whether the sparing but prudent placing of visual objects is offset by the interactive activity of spraying perfume and allowing scent to fill the space. Will a beautiful scented sculpture ensue? Hopefully.