September 18, 2014

The Fine Art Of Perfume Creation Exhibition And Scents That Make You Happy



It seems Chanel No 5 will always be around - good news for me as it is my favourite along with Givenchy's  Organza. 

THE modern perfume industry began not in the lavender fields of Provence or the sandalwood forests of India but in the laboratory, with the chemical synthesis of a compound called coumarin. 
The chemical occurs naturally in plants, but in 1868 an English chemist, William Henry Perkin, discovered how to produce it artificially. It has a sweet smell that is reminiscent of almonds. 


In 1884, French perfumer Paul Parquet used coumarin in his perfume Fougere Royale. A few years later Aime Guerlain produced the fragrance Jicky using the same artificial compound, among other delicious-smelling things. It was launched in 1889, centenary year of the French Revolution as well as the year the Eiffel Tower opened.

“They were the first scent artists to use synthetic materials in their works,” says perfume histor­ian and curator Chandler Burr. “It took the (perfume) medium from one that is artisanal to one that was a true art. The reason is abstraction: synthetics do not smell like anything but themselves. They are not from the natural world.”

On a recent Friday morning, I spent an unusually fragrant hour with Ewan McEoin, design consultant at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Arrayed in front of us were 14 steel canisters with red ­labels saying “flammable liquid”. Seven of them contained ­synthetic compounds used in perfume manufacture. Each canister’s pair contained a commercial fragrance that used the basic synthetic material: a selection of perfumes from the house of Guerlain with redolent names such as Shalimar, Chamade and Herba Fresca.

The first contained the synthetic compound that started it all, coumarin. McEoin waved a plastic stopper under my nose and I caught the unmistakable smell of almonds. In the notes that Burr has supplied, he describes coumarin rather more evocatively as deliciously sweet and chewy, like marzipan.

Then McEoin opened a canister of Jicky, Guerlain’s classic scent that is still produced and marketed as the first modern perfume. It has a floral and spicy fragrance and, underneath, the rich, warm smell of almondy coumarin.

Why are we sniffing cardboard strips of perfume in an art gallery, and not in a Collins Street boutique or airport duty-free? Fragrance design is the latest creative industry to enter the art gallery, after fashion shouldered its way into the fine arts establishment several decades ago. Even those gallery-goers who no longer regard haute couture off-limits — the NGV will soon host a Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective — may be sniffy about the fragrant arriviste.
Burr is unequivocal about perfume as art, and its place in an institutional setting. Next week he opens his exhibition, titled Hyper-Natural: Scent from Design to Art, at the NGV.

It will be installed in the rear garden at St Kilda Road and feature “scent stations”, amid wafting clouds of decorative mist, where visitors can sample the seven molecular scents and the perfumes made from them. The garden beds have been enlarged for the occasion and planted with springtime jonquils, daffodils and pansies.

A perfume critic and an astute observer of the fragrance industry, Burr chronicled a “year inside the perfume industry” in his 2007 book The Perfect Scent, which describes the work of master French perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena as he worked on Un Jardin sur le Nil for Hermes, and the making of a celebrity fragrance, Lovely, from an idea by actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

One of the surprising things about the $US30 billion ($33bn) business is that many fashion designers — Burr mentions Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani — do not make or devise the fragrances sold under their name. Instead, the scent-making is outsourced to a handful of fragrance companies and designers, and a fiction is maintained that fashion houses design their own scent. Guerlain is one of the luxury brands that does design its own perfumes.

Burr, a former perfume critic for The New York Times, in 2010 founded the department of olfactory art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. His 2012 exhibition there, called The Art of Scent, turned the public nose to 12 classic perfumes including Guerlain’s Jicky and Ernest Beaux’s Chanel No 5.

Burr says perfumes should be exhibited with the same careful consideration as that given the visual arts. Indeed, he speaks of perfumes in the same breath as old master paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Goya.

“Chanel No 5, Shalimar and Eau Sauvage are going to be around forever, absolutely,” Burr says on the phone from Italy, ahead of his Melbourne visit. “Two hundred years in the future, we will have museums and exhibition spaces in which the great works will always be displayed, just as the great works of painting and sculpture.”



Synthetic compounds began a revolution in olfactory art because they allowed the transition from what may be called figurative fragrance — a rose is a rose — to more abstract compositions.

“They gave the perfumer a control over the materials they never could have had with naturals,” Burr says. “Naturals are incredibly complicated; rose absolute may have 1000 molecules in it. And they are very difficult to control; it’s sort of a blunt instrument. With synthetics, you could pinpoint things, and they will make your work more focused, interesting and controlled.”

Other compounds in the Hyper-Natural exhibition include synthetic vanilla, ethyl vanillin, which was first synthesised in 1872 and used in Guerlain’s Shalimar (1921), and methyl cyclopentenolone, which has a dark caramel, licorice smell and is used in La Petite Robe Noire (2009).

One of the most astonishing synthetic compounds was isolated from the southern African buchu plant in 1969.

Called p-Mentha-8-thiol-3-one, it has the proprietary name Sulfox, and an overwhelmingly fruity smell that Burr describes as a “nuclear-powered exotic fruit salad”. It is used in the 1969 Guerlain fragrance Chamade.

McEoin, co-curator of Hyper-Natural, says the exhibition is part of the gallery’s mission to explore different dimensions of design. Perfumers are like designers in other disciplines in that they start with a problem in search of a solution. “There is a creative process and a technical process,” he says. “The final work becomes something that has greater emotional meaning than all of the parts put together.”

Guerlain has donated the compounds and perfumes for the exhibition, McEoin says.
There is no commercial arrangement between the gallery and luxury brand, although Guerlain is credited as a supporter of the exhibition.

Burr, who has visited Australia previously — he describes the smell of Sydney as having a vegetal component, identifying it as eucalyptus and an “ozonic quality that is absolutely beautiful” — says he wants to educate people about the artistry of perfume.
“People think of perfume as an esoteric or a frivolous thing that is tied to the materialism of the fashion industry,” he says.

“In fact, they are wonderful works of design, made with the work of people and cultures from all over the world. When you wear a perfume, you wear a world.”

Hyper-Natural: Scent from Design to Art is at the National Gallery of Victoria from September 25 to November 30. Chandler Burr will give a lecture about the fragrance industry on September 24.

By Matthew Westwood

With thanks to The Australian

Some scents are scientifically proven to make you happy.

About 15-20 percent of the population is hypersensitive, which makes those people more attuned to both sensory inputs — smell, touch, sounds — and emotions. Obviously, this can have its upsides and downsides, but like anything else, it's all about how you deal with the things that make you different. Oftentimes, those with ADD/ADHD are also hypersensitive (the two traits travel together on genes) and “[People with ADD/ADHD] often are hypersensitive in one of the sensory domains: sound, touch, or smell,” says Ned Hallowell, M.D., author of "Driven to Distraction."
You can check to see if you are more or less sensitive with a test like this one. (I checked 19 of the boxes; my partner would probably check all of them, so there are certainly degrees of sensitivity). Over time, I've realized that it makes more sense to understand and respect my sensitivities than try to ignore them — and one of the things I'm most sensitive to is scents. I've found that I can use that to an advantage when I want to influence my mood by using proven aromatherapy attitude adjusters. 
When I want to relax, my go-tos are either lavender or vanilla, both of which have been shown in studies to relax and mellow. But whether you are a more sensitive person or not, certain smells can have very real impacts on how you feel. How have scientists tested this? 
An article on the Social Issues Research Center's site reports: "Medical experiments have shown that vanilla fragrance reduces stress and anxiety. Cancer patients undergoing Magnetic Resonance Imaging — a diagnostic procedure known to be stressful — reported a massive 63 percent less anxiety when heliotropin (a vanilla fragrance) was administered during the procedure." 
Researchers at International Flavors and Fragrances developed Mood Mapping, which, according to the Chemical Senses journal, "reliably measures the mood associations of aromas, whether simple ingredients or finished fragrances in consumer products." They used Mood Mapping to compare reactions to a citrus aroma and vanilla, and found that in a test that used self-reporting, the citrus scent was overwhelmingly rated at being "happy" and "stimulating" whereas vanilla bean was rated as "happy" and "relaxing." 
While no scent is quite as happy-making as vanilla (it tops most studies for that quality — some theorize that it has to do with memories of childhood, while others say the effect is too strong and consistent for it to be a social effect), there's another that rivals it for relaxation.
Lavender has been found to be both relaxing and lightly energizing. In a 2012 Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand study,"... lavender oil caused significant decreases of blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, which indicated a decrease of autonomic arousal. In terms of mood responses, the subjects in the lavender oil group categorized themselves as more active, fresher relaxed than subjects just inhaling base oil."
Of course, there's plenty more to be learned about aromatherapy (and plenty more science to do to parse out the real deal from the supposed effects of some scents). But even if you just have three essential oils in your arsenal — some kind of citrus (I like Aura Cacia's orange blossom), lavender and real vanilla (make sure it's not some fake stuff that uses chemicals to smell like vanilla, because lab tests show only the real stuff works) — you'll be on your way to happiness and relaxation, no matter how sensitive you are — though if you are highly sensitive, it might work especially well for you.
With thanks to MNN