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!
Perfume as Practice makes an appearance in Sheffield this weekend in the guise of a stall at Wadsley Festival. As such, I have spent the last few weeks preparing a variety of new works – both scented and unscented!
My aim at the festival is to provide an audience with an alternative way of looking at perfume, the craft of perfumery and how scent can be a viable and potent form of communication. I will be showcasing a variety of perfume portraits, demonstrating the perfume making process and presenting visual ways of depicting the virtues of perfumery and it’s capacity for identity, narrative and metaphor.
I’m well into my second year of Perfume as Practice yet what continues to strike me is it’s versatility and the many levels of engagement it provides. Within one month my perfume-based endeavours have depicted Bone Cancer stories, have provided a conceptually-charged representation of knowledge, have used fragrance to describe identity with reference to travel and finally have returned to the notion of portraiture. And yet I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of possibilities. So, onwards and upwards!
In May I’ll be involved in no less than 4 exhibitions and events. A busy time indeed, but one I am very much looking forward to getting stuck into!
May also marks the return of one strand of my creative endeavours – Speculative Studio Spaces – which sees me construct a fabricated studio space based on the exhibition piece of another artist. When a highly personal space such as an artists studio is opened to investigation and interpretation, what does that say about the artist, the outward perception of the artist and how we regard creative processes?
I will be staging a Speculative Studio Space as part of a group exhibition in Huddersfield Media Centre. The studio I will be fabricating is that of the artist Jim Geddes (1932-2009) who I’m told was a rather prolific artist in his time. The process of creating this space is a slight departure from previous Speculative Studio Spaces, as this time I haven’t personally chosen the artist. It will be interesting to see how relinquishing control of part of the process effects the overall space.
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.
Two props for my exhibition
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.
An initial plan of how I intend to fill the space.
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.
And so, after around 150 visitors through my door, 2 pieces of work sold, 6 cups of tea and a slice of carrot cake I believe it fit to deem this years’ Yorkshire Artspace Open Studios a success.
Last year my work felt a little impenetrable to the public gaze: Attempting to explain why I make paint out of food, and how I consider that paint to be a complete and potent work of art was tricky at the best of times. This year, equipped with a spiel about perfume and with an abundance of oils, scents and fragrances on display ready to be sniffed, there was a palpable sense of the audience directly and instantly engaging with my work, processes and thoughts.
Measuring audience engagement is a useful tool for discerning the success of a body of work. After all, you could be occupied by the most conceptually rich and innovative project imaginable, but if an audience can’t access it, you might as well deem it a vanity project. This last year has seen me take care in creating work at offers a trade off between innovation and accessibility, and how my work was received at Open Studios this year in comparison to last is a reflection of that.
This table displayed all my perfume-making activities at Yorkshire Artspace’s Open Studios.
Open Studios tends to be a bit of an unknown quantity, usually dependant on external factors such as time of year, weather, how it is promoted and what other events are happening nearby. But as I have now participated in 4 different Open Studios I feel I have learnt a thing or two along the way. Here’s 5 tips, based on my experiences:
1. Know your audience
In my experience, you can divide an Open Studios audience up into two distinct categories; members of the public looking for something to buy and other artists have a snoop around other people’s studios. An awareness of this this year enabled me to tailor how I talk about my work, allowing it to become accessible, intriguing and fun for an audience. If they wished to scratch away at the surface, they would uncover more about how I use perfume as a platform for portraiture and how I am attempting to find alternative uses for per-established concepts. But there’s nothing wrong with someone just wanting to have a sniff at a Christmas fragrance before trundling off.
2. Attempt a trade-off between working space and exhibition space.
Catering for all needs whilst remaining true to the functionality of a working studio is key. For one, a wider audience will remember you if you offer both finished pieces of work and the opportunity to see the materials and equipment you have, and being remembered is essential to securing opportunities and developing connections. I’m more than happy to be remembered by some as ‘that guy that makes perfumes’ and by others as ‘that guy with loads and loads of little bottles in his studio’.
3. Be aware that people might want to buy something
If, like me, your current practice is difficult – or even impossible – to sell, you may find that you have some more commercially viable work deep within the darkest corner of your studio somewhere. If you do, then I don’t think there’s any harm in displaying them and offering them for sale. I tend to keep an audience’s focus on my current project, but I do also refer them to a wall I isolate as a shop space, packed full of old paintings offered at a reasonable price. It’s always nice to get a bit of cash in the back pocket, after all. And it’s always rewarding to see someone loving your work – no matter how old it is.
4. Visitors will always find a point of interest
This follows on somewhat from my previous point. You can set up your studio any which way you like, but chances are someone will pop in and attempt to look at something you didn’t even consider close to worthy of display. This is fine, just go with it. Don’t forget that the more open and accessible you are, the easier it will be for an audience to be captivated by at least one facet of your creative endeavours.
5. Relax and Enjoy!
On the whole, people tend to be very pleasant and positive towards your work. You’ll probably get the odd quip or awkward comment but nothing that you should take to heart. Indeed such comments might even be useful and constructive. Not everyone is going to fully understand, or appreciate, or really connect with what you do, and that’s fine, because there will certainly be those that do.
…So there you have it. Hope this was informative in some way! And don’t forget, this is based my my personal experience. What are your experiences of Open Studio events?
After the inevitable massive push that comes with the instillation and promotion of an exhibition, the beginning of October has seen a period of reflection: An assessment of the patterns that are emerging by virtue of my own intuition with every speculative studio space I have installed. I have concluded that these patterns, whilst inevitable, could have a negative impact of future speculative studio space exhibitions if not quelled. It is the authenticity of a speculative studio space that shapes its success, after all.
So with this, and with an upcoming open studio event looming in my mind, I see it fit to externalise these thoughts and provide insight into my Speculative Studio Spaces project to an audience. The aim is to provide an informative guide to the nature of my project, including notions of how creative choices can be relinquished from the artist, and how this process can encourage instructive thinking about identity, ownership and authorship.
So, I present to you a Speculative Studio Spaces Talk and Guide this coming Thursday at Access Space! I will be on-hand to talk through the concept, process and instillation of a Speculative Studio Space, the implications of a Speculative Studio Space and future Speculative Studio Space projects. I will also be on-hand to answer any questions.
You can find more details on this facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/147744285576108/
I hope to see you there as it should be a fun and interesting evening. Plus there will be a bar, which is always nice! Plus, with Perfume as Practice – a project developing alongside Speculative Studio Space, taking precedence from now until spring 2016, it is safe to say that this will be the last Speculative Studio Spaces event for a little while.
Studio spaces. What are they? Are they a form of refuge? a highly personal space that demands the removal of inhabitation? A platform where artists can come, meet and feel resolve from mutually beneficial conversation? A space to develop informed and meaningful creative practice? Or simply a space where you can exist in isolation from the worlds troubles to do whatever the hell you want?
Whatever they are, their existence within creative practice helps the artist arrive at visual conclusions via a plethora of choices comprised of thoughts, ideas, images, materials, surfaces and tools. The decisions artists make within a studio develops engagement with their practice and allows the artist to construct their artistic identity. The studio also allows the artist to develop an affinity with materials, which in turn reinforce how we wish to be perceived: If an artist uses steel, for example, then they begin to be regarded as such, and that material is able to be attached to the artists’ perceived identity.
Yet the true nature of studio spaces is rarely portrayed to an audience, despite the fact that a studio space is able to provide true insight into identity in relation to creative processes. True, us artists often allow an audience to grace our studio spaces via ‘Open Studio’ events. But these are largely fabricated; any mess is cleaned up, materials and tools hare hidden, and any creative activity is removed in favour of displaying finished works. They function as pseudo-exhibitions, enabling the audience to witness how an artist wishes to be perceived, but providing no insight into the studios’ day-to-day role.
There’s something about the true nature of studio spaces that can be exploited and taken in new, engaging and potentially innovative directions. From 2015 I hope to take an informed and balanced gaze upon the nature of studio spaces, the artists relationship with studio spaces and how that relationship develops, enhances and cements identity.
Currently, I hypothesise that the notion of relinquishing any choice from the artist and constructing a speculative studio space is able to at once investigate how creative processes develop whilst simultaneously disarming the artist of their identity. Indeed, I have trialled the notion of speculative studios during Yorkshire Artspaces ‘Open Studios’ last month. I took the end products from two separate artists and constructed a studio space that speculated how the artist may have arrived at such a conclusion:
Speculative Studio Spaces at Exchange Place Studios
Speculative Studio Spaces at Exchange Place Studios
Relinquishing the artist of the choices they make intends to expose how creative process relate to the construction of identity and intends investigate the problematic implications of authorship and ownership in relation to how an audience may perceive an artist when an artist has no input in the matter.
I would initially suggest that re-contextualising the choices artists make within a studio as end products – which is essentially what my ‘speculative studio spaces’ are – may reveal a studio space that reads like a portrait: An alternative identity that reveals a chance to assess and reflect upon creativity from a difference space, as well as provide a commentary for how creative processes can be manipulated for the sake of exposing identity.
As part of Yorkshire Artspace’s Open Studios I am running a two-day exhibition at Exchange Place Studios. The exhibition will act as a trial of some of my current ideas around the themes of identity and creative processes. It will run Friday 21st November from 5:30 – 9pm and Saturday 22nd November from 11am – 5pm. I will be on the 4th Floor of Exchange Place Studios.
Included in the exhibition will be a re-imagination of two artists’ studios, based on their perceived creative output. I speculate upon their processes, their materials and even their own personalities in order to devise an alternative yet informed identity. I will also be displaying three purposely-constructed mechanisms that attempt to disrupt my own creative processes and highlight and assess how value can be placed upon everyday objects.
A sneak peek of one of my ‘speculative studio spaces’ – on display at Exchange Place Studios this coming Friday & Saturday
I would like to invite you all to the exhibition, which will use an empty studio space near my own studio, I will also be present during both days, so you’d get the opportunity to meet me, ask questions or just chat.
In fact, the whole weekend gives you a great opportunity to meet loads of the artists, makers and designers that work in Yorkshire Artspace. Full details can be found here:
Thank you. See you all on Friday or Saturday hopefully!
Last Wednesday I held the first of three paint making workshops to be held at The Bessemer II Gallery in Sheffield.
As ever, the paint making workshop provided me with the opportunity to engage with local artists by sharing knowledge and highlighting the possibilities of paint, including how to create paint from everyday foods and the notion that paint is able to be considered the end result of a creative process.
I hope my workshops make people think a little differently about paint, enriching their approach to the medium and perhaps allowing them to explore ways of developing a relationship with paint in a way that will directly further and develop their practice. I also cannot dismiss the importance of the social aspect of the event, which can encourage collaboration, professional development and, dare I say it, friendship!
This particular workshop went very smoothly indeed. I believe that each participant benefited from the event, learning how to make paint from food but, importantly, exploring how to apply what they’ve learnt to their own practice.
The second paint making workshop will be at Bessemer II on 8th October, and the third on on 12th November. The workshop costs £20, which includes all materials and refreshments. If they sound interesting to you, there’s still places left; so book ’em while you can!
Video games. It’s a subject I have tried to grapple with in the context of art for some time. And while I can’t deny that video games are a form of art, I have struggled with ways to pull the concepts of gaming towards my practice.
I want to, as I believe that when gaming is placed within the context of memory, it is prone to nostalgia and the trappings of being perceived at face vale. This, in turn, has a great deal of creative mileage as I seek to extend the experiences found within gaming into the physical world, enriching an audiences perception and engaging with the shared experiences a game has to offer in a way applicable to reality.
My current Pixel Poetry work seeks to isolate concepts found within certain games that are either hidden, abstract or even entirely speculative. The aim is to disrupt pre-conceived notions of games, for both players and non-players alike. I enjoy creating them, I believe they have a place within poetry and they seem to engage a certain audience. But what interests me further is the fact that gaming, as a subject, is increasingly set upon by artists as a means to instigate artistic practice. I saw with Far Lands – an open call exhibition I co-devised and co-curated – that gaming within the context of fine art exists and exists healthily. However, I wish to extend this notion and see how video games with art can be furthered. With that said, I present to you PLAY! – an open call invitation for artists at any stage or their career to submit work in a response to the theme of video games:
PLAY! is an open-call exhibition featuring artwork based on video games. The exhibition will be held at Access Space, Sheffield, from 3rd – 31st October 2014.
We (Myself and Sharon Mossbeck) are looking for submissions from artists whose work takes a critically engaged approach to computer games within a fine art context. Within such a broad theme, we are specifically looking for conceptually strong work which seeks to isolate aspects of gaming for suitable artistic reflection and contemplation.
We encourage artists to consider areas of gaming that can be considered for their artistic value: Glitches and beta games, for example, are distinguishable in their ability to reveal the hand of the individuals involved in creating the game. Whilst linear narratives and inaccessible areas create a tangible tension between gamer and desire to play and re-play. However, these are just examples of the conceptual mileage found within video games, and artists are invited to respond to the theme in any way they choose.
We are looking specifically for 2D and small 3D work, such as painting, photography, sculpture and printmaking. We may consider digital and video instillation work – but keep in mind that the space will only be able to accommodate one or two works of this nature.
Artists at any stage of their career are welcome to submit their work
How to apply
This open call invites submissions from artists working in 2D, though small 3D works may be considered. Your work should be ready to be wall mounted, and should exceed no more than 2 meters squared.
Artists may submit up to 3 pieces each.
All submissions should include:
– A description of your work, max 300 words
– Max 5 jpeg images of your work
– Artist statement (Or link to website)
Please email your submission, or any questions you may have, to email@example.com
Submission deadline: 8th September 2014
You will be notified by 15th September whether or not you have been successful. Applicants that are successful will be able to deliver their work to Access Space from 29th September – 3rd October.
…So there we have it. If you’re in any way inspired, intrigued or informed my video games, or the concepts found in video games. Please submit your work. I’d love to witness further ways in which artists have embraced video games in their practice.