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Diary of a Painting Designed for Logistics

‘Brain in a Bottle’ is a painting created for logistical ease. It aims to represent visually the implications of my Bank Street Arts residency ‘Perfume as Practice’ which looks at perfume as a form of portraiture; the essence of someone, captured within a bottle and offered to an audience as a means of art.

Problem is, perfume is hard to manage logistically. Restrictions imposed upon fragrance mean that it’s hard to directly show my perfumes internationally, unless I make them in situ. And even showing them nationally requires a fair bit of planning and thought.

In order to combat this, ‘Brain in a Bottle’ was created – a reasonably small acrylic-on-canvas, easy to transport, cheap to post and relatively fuss-free. It is a painting of convenience, fulfilling an almost administrative role and allowing me to promote my perfume-based endeavours with ease. It’s less a coherent piece of art, more a poster.

Yet feedback I have received on it has been very positive. Which is great, but strangely disconcerting – I possess almost no real emotional attachment or investment to the piece, as it’s not really a means of self-expression or investigation and it doesn’t really further Perfume as Practice as a project. However, that’s not to say I don’t like it, I am certainly happy enough with how it turned out and it does do the required job.

I suppose it’s just one of the perils of showing your work to an audience: Sometimes you put your heart and soul into a piece and you receive a muted response, yet sometimes you bash a piece out and it becomes revered. I guess the most practical thing to do is just accept it, go with the flow, have a think about why this piece is so well liked, and apply the reasons to my creative practice.

You can see ‘Brain in a Bottle’ at Crypt Gallery, London until 25th July, along with works by other Tate staff.


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