To quote Icelandic artist Andrea Maack, her fragrance collection was born because ‘I like the idea of being able to wear a perfume as a piece of art. I was working on a series of artworks that dealt with the concept of wearable art, and in the process the idea to make the ultimate scent came along.’ And so the fragrance Smart (short for ‘Smell Art’) was born – the first of several collaborations with perfumers to translate Andrea’s original drawings into fragrance.
Andrea Maack graduated from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts in 2005, and her work incorporates elements of fashion design and graphic art, expressed via pencil and mixed media drawings, which are then often translated into sculpture and ‘wearable art’. These fragrances are essentially extensions of that work.
Originally, they were intended to be part of her exhibitions, to take that one stage furhter: something to engage another sense, beyond sight. For the show where she unveiled Smart, the scent was sprayed onto hundreds of blotters which were assembled, jigsaw-puzzle style, to create a vast image of the original line drawing.
Another exhibition – centred around a paper dress, decorated with her intricate line drawings – led to the creation of Craft (or ‘Couture Art’, with its notes of cold metal and ice, alongside cedarwood, patchouli and elemi). Then came Sharp (‘Shape Art’), with notes that include the evocative (if imaginary) note of ‘angel skin.’
But so many friends and visitors to her shows expressed a longing to wear these intriguing interpretations of her visual work that Andrea Maack collection was born. Since then, this growing portfolio of fragrances has criss-crossed the borders between art and consumerism – making scent-lovers think, as well as smell.
It’s the accepted way of working, in perfumery, that much to-ing and fro-ing goes on between client and ‘nose’. In stark contrast, Andrea Maack‘s concept has been to dispatch art pieces to different perfumers, and allow them absolute free rein – without any guidance to the ‘nose’ as to what the resulting fragrance should smell like. She doesn’t demand changes to the original submissions, either. Andrea simply sent the French fragrance house APF the drawings – often intricate and detailed – and left the rest to them. (‘I really like this organic way of working,’ she told the Basenotes website. ‘The communication was really “old school” – just the post.’)
In Andrea Maack‘s fragrances, then, the perfumer is invited to become the artist – and the spectator to become part of the artwork. The result is something truly unique, in the scent world. Where she does get involved – as you’d expect, from a visual artist – is with the packaging: each of the ridged boxes is printed wtih one of Andrea Maack’s original drawings.
Andrea has a strong vision of the fragrances which bear her Icelandic name. Smart, for instance, ‘is not meant to bring up any memories, only a vision of a clear future.’ But that’s beautifully expressed, though heady jasmine, exotic sandalwood and creamy musk, ‘blended carefully with a supple buckskin leather note.’
Would you wear something called Coal? If you smelled this, perhaps. ‘As the name suggests, it’s based on my charcoal drawings,’ explains Andrea. ‘The opening of coal is very charcoal and deepens as it meets the paper note. The base is a mix of woods and leather that adds to the intensity, and gives it the pure mineral punch I was looking for.’
And Dark, she adds, ‘came out of nowhere. My drawing mood was very dark and at the same time I was imagining what the modern-day vamp would wear. The heavy metallic note in the scent brings an unexpected surprise while its animalistic and powdery side suggests a certain comfort, both reassuring and protective.’ That’s conjured up through a fusion of notes including petitgrain, Spanish cistus, papyrus, earth, amber, rose, orange blossom, cedarwood and ambergris, powered out of the bottle by aldehydes.
So as you’ll see and smell, at a perfumery which showcases the collection – Andrea Maack is one of the creative forces breaking with perfume tradition, and making the scent world a more exciting space. At The Perfume Society, we believe that perfume is a true art form. But few fragrance brands link the visual and the olfactory worlds so closely as Andrea Maack.
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