Today I’m Wearing – and painting with – 1876 by Histoires de Parfums

Who: Annie Mackin, painter. Annie lives and works in Hastings, where she creates beautiful works from her home studio, conveniently situated in the basement of her house, so she can paint during rare quiet moments looking after her two year old son. Her current exhibition, Through Smoke, is on at the adventurous 35 North Gallery in Brighton, where she has used fragrance both within the art work, and also with the presentation of the paintings, for a poly-sensory art experience.

We’re seeing an increasing number of art and fragrance collaborations, so we caught up with Annie to discover how scent affects her art.

Today I’m wearing Histoires de Parfums 1876. I’m wearing this scent mostly because I made an art show about it and I’ve ended up loving it! It’s from the chypre family and it makes me feel romantic, energetic and powerful when I wear it.

For me the scent is less about the individual notes it’s made of and more about the atmosphere it conjures up. When I smelled chypre scents for the first time I was inspired to create watercolour pieces that responded to the aroma, I wanted to create work that was kind of bright and earthy at the same time.

I responded differently to the fragrance in each painting, seeing how it connected to the energy of the paints I was using. So sometimes it would be very processed based and sometimes I was working with movement to create the patterns and colours on the paper, feeling the energy, based on the scent.

I would spray the canvas first with fragrance, or spray it afterwards and see the different affects it created. When I added scent to the inks and paints, I didn’t have to change my process too much as they blended in easily to the watercolours.

To create a multi sensory exhibition I scented the room with Histoires de Parfums 1876 too, we used a gentle scent diffuser, so as a visitor you are completely immersed in the scent as well as looking at it in the paintings.

I’ve had a lot of interesting responses, one person took the scrunchy out of her hair and put it close to the diffuser to catch the scent. It’s not been overpowering, everyone really enjoyed the smell, which is what I wanted.

As part of my research I read a perfume book on the chypre fragrance family, which features a lot of grounding mossy notes, and about Aphrodite sleeping on a bed of moss in Cyprus, where she was born. I thought it was a romantic idea and wanted to extend that romantic feeling into the watercolours.

I’ve made work about magical history previously, and I’ve been fascinated by paganism for years. Then during lockdown I created a lot of work around goddesses, alongside works featuring Aphrodite, It all kind of looped back into that early thought process, even though the final works were more figurative paintings, it still fed back to that original idea of romance and being grounded.

Being at home during during Covid with a new baby, I had contradictory feelings, I was inspired by the anchoring comfort of being at home, but also there was a feeling of being trapped, so I wanted to create work that was inspired by that situation.

During lockdown I would always use perfume before heading out of the house, it helped to stop me being so anxious. Even if it was just taking my son to the play, a quick spritz made me feel ready to go out and face the world. Although I’m a bit regretful now as I’ve used up all my good scent just going to the playground! I wore Ginsberg Is God by Bella Freud. Burning candles at home also felt grounding and comfortingly ritualistic, I used it as a cleansing ritual too, with a baby and a dog around it helped to keep things smelling good.

I’ve made sage smudge sticks before and I also use Paolo Santo, although in the UK, we should describe it as reeking, as its our own ancient version of the same ritual. You can use lavender and sage grown in your own garden rather than shipping things across the world. Now I try and stick to local ingredients for reeking.

I spray fragrance on my neck and my hair, I keep it simple. I don’t change my scent too much because of keeping my smell consistent for my son, I think its quite important for him and for me.

I never really got that new born baby smell from the baby, I always thought he just smelled like me. He’s got his first scented bubble bath, Zog the Dragon bubble bath, which is dragon fruit and orange scented. He loves it.

Imagery by Unit 33 Studios