Perfume is obviously something that is on my mind quite often and even more so since I have started the blog. There are moments when I find a connection to perfume, either a specific one or fragrances in general and I always cherish those findings because they help me understand perfumes better and in a new way. It's particularly enjoyable if I can connect things I really love and make them more "mine".
The last time this happened was a real special moment and that's why I want to share it here.
I went to see an exhibition at Tate Modern and fell in love with the work on display, the woman behind it and that moment of connection I described earlier. Mira Schendel was a Swiss born jewish refugee who settled in Brazil after the Second World War. She had studied art and philosophy in her youth but was forced to leave Milan university after Mussolini stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship.
Being too poor to afford "proper" art materials she sketched on cardboard, used crayons and in her own words:"painted like crazy." The early paintings are soft and remarkably calming abstracts and still lifes in muted colours, influenced by Klee, Murandi and other European painters. In the 60's her art career takes off with a solo exhibitions in London and Brazil and she starts drawing on rice paper which will become her medium of choice. She is inspired by philosophy, language and religion and often uses words, typography and fragments of texts in a variety of languages. The rice paper, so fragile and fleeting, is not just a medium but also the message. "The back of transparency lies in front of you," the artist wrote, "and the 'other world' turns out to be this one."
Her work is pure and playful, with a very Zen like quality and when I was walking around the exhibition I was completely mesmerised. I sometimes regret that I'm not as enthusiastic about art as I used to be, too often I find myself thinking: "Yeah, great, but seen it before..." May be that comes with age, but this time I really was thrilled and felt this connection that makes suddenly everything right and glowing and a bit magical. I'm not an art theorist, I can't really describe an ism and the whys and why nots, but I do know when I see something truly special.
And at some point I realised that the fragile otherworldlyness of her rice paper works reminded me of perfume. First, of perfume as a medium, fleeting but yet evocative, not really there but present...invisible but sensual. And then I entered the room of her installation called "Still Waves of Probability" and it hit me that Lumiere Blanche, by Olfactive Studio was the perfume I was thinking of while spending time with Mira Schendel's art. It's not just the name which makes this a suitable olfactory connection, but the transparency and the pureness. LB is an homage to light with a strength that makes you squint for a second and although it's a warming and comforting fragrance it's primary aspect is cool. Does that make sense? Probably not, but for me it really does oscillate between warm and cool in an astonishing way. It's also manages to be ethereal without any faux pretension. I wish I had worn it that day.
Images via TateModern and wikipaintings.