Who says you can't smell an old master painting?! Ahead of Feast, the Dulwich Picture Gallery's next alternative Friday Late, we reveal how you can create your own aromatic interpretation of the collection.
1. The Gallery Visit
An Aroma-Tour should always start and end with the gallery space. What paintings capture your attention when you first walk in? Is there anything in the background of a painting that catches your eye? What stories are being told? What would that painting smell like? Start to think aromatically, not just visually. Smells that describe what is in the painting are interesting, for instance a feast scene with a lobster might be matched to the scent of boiled lobster, but it is also about storytelling. What smell could you match with that image to make you think about that scene in a different way? Explore the gallery, investigate the collection, and pick a shortlist of 5-10 to go home a research in depth.
2. The Research
Buy books, go on the internet, use the gallery archive and research each painting you picked. What’s the story? Who’s the artist? Where was it painted? Start to think about the details of the painting, the interaction between the figures, the décor in the rooms, the time and space in which it was set. Research the stories within, and see if any tangents or ideas begin to emerge.
3. The Final Menu
From your shortlist, choose 3-4 paintings that you have come up with an aroma pairing for. If you think The Nurture of Bacchus (Gallery 12) would go great with the smell of red wine, choose that one. Perhaps you liked the painting of Princess Victoria aged Four by Stephen Poyntz Denning (Gallery 1), that used to be reproduced on biscuit tins, so I’d pair it with the smell of biscuits! Once you have your final list, make a little menu with the details of the paintings, the smell and why you think it matches.
4. The Smelly Bit
This is the point where you try to source your aromas. There are a huge amount of perfumes and essences available online so you should be able to find or blend most things. If you can’t find what you need, you can try and make your own by creating an infused tincture with alcohol, or making a natural extract using a flavourless oil as a base. Once you have all your smells, infuse them onto a perfume tab (or a thick strip of paper) by dipping it in and allowing it to dry for 30mins before packing it into an airtight container or polythene bag. Atomisers would also work, but most galleries do not allow liquids in the gallery space or near the paintings so these would not be advised for an Aroma-Tour.
5. The Aroma-Tour
With perfume tabs in hand go back to the gallery and sniff as you see! You’ll start thinking about the paintings in a different way and get your friends and family to experience it differently too. Smell is the sense most closely linked to memory so it’s an acquaintance with an artwork that you’ll never forget. Alternatively, if this sounds like a lot of hard work, fear not! AVM Curiosities have devised their own Aroma-Tour at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, as part of the Feast Late on October 6th. Alongside the host of other exciting activities, you can see and smell what we chose as our pairings… without the need to make your own lobster essence.
The Aroma-Tour | Feast Late | Dulwich Picture Gallery | Gallery Road, London, SE21 7AD | Friday 6 October 2017 | 6-10pm | Tickets £12/10 | Click here for more information.