Abstract Scent

By Jo Phillips

When we think of the world of Abstract art, we may well imagine non-visual language, say shapes, forms, colours and even lines to create an image that on the surface be devoid of logic. Ultimately it is an art form that is usually non-figurative, non-objective, and non-representational. So simply speaking these works indicate a departure from reality in depiction, becoming far more about ephemeral ideas and universal questions. But what if someone were to approach a perfume with the same thinking and aesthetic? Find out more in Abstract Scent Here

By the end of the 19th century, many artists wanted to challenge and create artworks which would highlight the massive shift occurring in technology, science and philosophy. The sources from which individual artists drew their theoretical ideas were diverse and reflected the social and intellectual preoccupations in all areas of the modern world at the time. Much of it questioned art theory up until then and also questions massive world events like wars that had left so many fractured. Alongside, was the continuing industrial revolution that was a big inspiration for these new artistic creators.

Abstract art makes reality subjective to an individual’s interpretation and senses, much like the scent of a perfume is different on every skin and to every nose, hence this article, abstract scent. It is this form of art whose characteristics most resemble Artistic Perfumery, the niche world of scent that has opened up dramatically in the last 20 years, where the commercially driven ‘cosmetic’ scents previously ruling the shelves have been pushed aside for far more inspirational and avant-garde fragrances, even if you like more intelligent approaches to these bottled elixirs.

Perfume is often discussed in terms of pyramids meaning top middle and base notes. The top head notes are what you first smell then after a reasonably short time the heart notes the very core of the scent comes through say after about 30 minutes and then the base notes are the final notes that settle and last for several hours.

However, some perfumes are talked of in a more linear style this is when the scent explodes on the skin all at the same time. But what if this artform were represented by a number? Here we explore the movement of abstract scent via the number eight.

In mathematics, physics, science, and philosophy infinity is represented by the number 8. The Perfumer Paolo Terenzi choose this number as in Italian it translates into Otto, a word that can be read from both sides with the same sound and meaning. A palindrome word to represent the beginning and the end and therefore express the concept of artistic infinity the never-ending; a myriad of aesthetic forms, just like much abstract art.

So meet D’OTTO, the abstract art perfume collection that is made up of five fragrances, from five different olfactive families, with each perfume being a representation in scent of five iconic pieces of abstract art. Also, each perfume is named after a mathematical sum all of which of course adds up to eight.

D’Otto 1 + 7… 1 is the amount of reason. 7 is the amount of instinct that drives us. Inspired by Jackson Pollock’s painting Number 31

Olfactive Family: Fresh Water

Pollok’s seminal work is full of the power of the hypnotic notes of jazz musician Charlie Parker, Max Roach’s and Miles Davis sounds that were heard all over New York, and Chicago and became part of the driving force behind Pollock’s works. These freehand drip paintings became his signature. The juxtaposition of splattering and chaos all the way to subdued colours meld to make these masterpieces.

It makes total sense then that the perfume opens with an explosion of Italian Citrus. Effervescent and alive with Sorrento Lemon, Sicilian Grapefruit and Calabrian Bergamot, with its edge softened by Basilicata Petitgrain. All of this power has to counterpoint, so here it dives into herby Sage, Lake Garda Lavender and Thyme alongside Orange Blossom, a ying to the yang of brightness comes green and woody herbs. The darkness of the painting comes from the base of woods and grasses. Think Sandalwood, Oudh from Cambodia, Vetiver from Tahiti, Ambergris for an animalistic twist and Musk for warmth. A creation expressing the harmony of chaos; a painting full of almost manic gestures that somehow emits harmony. Not unlike a great perfume, however at odds the ingredients they meet together in perfection.

D’Otto 2+6… In numerology, 2 is read as a generating pair. The 6 as a goal point of harmony. Inspired by Kazimir Severinovič Malevič’s painting Black Square (1915)

Olfactive Family: Mossy Woods Amber

Black Square was first shown in The Last Futurist Exhibition in 1915. Frequently invoked by critics, historians, curators, and artists as the ‘zero point of painting’, a seminal work of modern art, and of abstract art in the Western painterly tradition. The break between representational painting and abstract painting.

A radical piece, the slab of black paint works repudiating nature in favour of abstraction. Flatness over depth, Malevich regarded his minimalistic geometrical forms as the secular equivalents of Russian icons, a form of painting which aspires to present the divine as pure or unmediated reality. So rather than golden paintings of deities, this can be seen as his interpretation of ‘religious thinking’ and ground zero in creation.

“It is from zero, in zero, that the true movement of being begins.”

Kazimir Severinovič Malevič

2 + 6 opens in a dramatic fashion as only it can with an aromatic explosion of spices including hot Black Pepper, warm Italian Saffron and the soft warmth of Cardamom, sitting with effervescent Sorrento Lemon in counterpoint with Ebony wood. Meeting in the head with a deep and powerful full floral spice of heart, Bulgarian Rose and Black Pepper offset with flowers such as Carnation and Peony, all bought to life here with magnificent Tahitian Vetiver and Red Sandalwood. If this were not enough in its base find precious woods of Cashmere and Indian Oudh, sitting with animalic, sweet, fruity, and woody Frankincense and Laudanum, with the support of Benzoin, Caramel and Italian Leather. A complex yet masterfully blended scent that is rich and deep. Think of words like displacement and harmony meeting in a bottle.

D’Otto 3+5… Again the numerology references are that 3 represents creativity, the ability to see beyond reality. Whilst 5 represents the soul of the seeker, who always goes beyond reality to enter the soul of things. Inspired by Paul Klee’s painting Red Balloon (1922)

Olfactive Family: Floral

This richly coloured display of geometric shapes gives the illusion of shapes floating. Vibrant shades of red, yellow, blue, and green and the use of oil and chalk on muslin help to bring out the intense tones and show Klee’s expertise in colour theory. Yet skillfully we are directed to the lone red circular balloon. Considered a cubist masterpiece, abstract, structured yet whimsical all at the same time.

“Art does not reproduce what is visible, but makes visible what is not always visible”,

Paul Klee

3 + 5 just like the red balloon pulls us in here we are drawn at the opening by the sweetness of Coconut enriched by fruits such as Apricot and Plum, perfectly contrasting with sweet Almond and soft Allspice. The heart draws us in, as does the painting here in the perfume find seductive flowers, Musk Rose, Lily of the Valley and Sambac Jasmine, alongside the heady joy of Mexican Tuberose. In terms of base think of the cubist structure of the artwork and find Indian Sandalwood combined with the sweetness of Madagascar Vanilla Flowers with a depth of Italian Oak Moss, combined with Musk and Grey Amber. A scent that eludes the power and entrancing aspects of this modernist, cubist yet classic piece of art.

D’Otto 5+ 3… Here we see 3 as the fundamental colours. Black and white are added to form 5 as tools to explore the essence of things. Inspired by Piet Mondrian’s painting Composition II in Red, Yellow and Blue (1929)

Olfactive Family: Ambery

Notice immediately the thick black outlines that define the red, yellow and blue of the primary blocks, a picture made up of borders squares and of coloured rectangles. Pre-modern art creators were obsessed with recreating 3D real-life imagery but here we see the freedom of modernity. If this were a pre-modern painting the block may well have been a jug, some fruits typical of a still life composition however here the block of colour almost stand in for objects and the art becomes a matter of form and colour; these two ideals, that run through centuries of art. Modern art focuses on the material properties of paint and its abilities in the right hands, to express ideas using formal elements such as line and colour.

“The ordinary human being seeks beauty in material life, but the artist should not do so. His creation must take place on an immaterial level: that of the intellect.”

Piet Mondrian

D’Otto 5 + 3 opens with an almost contradiction where Honey from Tuscany, combined with the spice of Blonde Tobacco from Virginia, both of which take centre stage with White Iris from Florence and with the divine notes of powdery Orris and soft woody Sandalwood. The heart comes alive with a mix of almost woody animalics with the divinity of florals, so find Frankincense and Bulgarian Rose petals, an extraordinary bouquet of Magnolia, Ylang Ylang and Tuberose, supported by Red Patchouli. Finally, both together with a solid base of Birch and Agarwood, meld into sweet notes of Vanilla Berry and Tonka Bean, and the highly aphrodisiac combination of Grey Amber and Musk. This perfume is a counterpoint between stark simplicity and complex thinking; think formality meets modernist styling.

D’Otto 6 + 2 6 represents Kandinsky’s great artistic skill in composing harmony and balance between colours. 2 represents two effects of the work on the observers: the physical and psychological.

Olfactive Family: Woody Ambery Oudh

Rather than Mondrian’s Red Yellow blue, we have Wassily Kandinsky’s Yellow-Red-Blue from 1925. Similarly, the primary colours on the painting feature squares, but added are circles, triangles as well as abstract shapes. The black lines here are straight and curved. Like artists before him, his colour theory was embedded alongside elements of psychology in his creations. And so in this painting, we see two sides one of bright colours with distinct forms, and one dark with more abstract shapes. There to highlight the depth of emotional thinking when interacting with this piece of art. The cornerstone of this work is not so dissimilar to creating a fragrance. These forms and colours are involved in the painting as much for the shapes as for the relationship between them, their absolute and relative positions on the canvas that brings harmony, in the same way, a great perfumer brings diverse ingredients together yet must be harmonised into a magnificent perfume. Dive deep into both this image and this elixir.

Depth is what stands out in this fragrance, as it opens with almost mystical Oman Incense, alongside precious resins of Opoponax and Myrrh. The woods of the heart surprise as Texas Cedar emerges initially and is combined with Cypriol and Indian Sandalwood, all of which are softened off with surprising Caramel. The base again delivers strength and depth, so find Agarwood and Oudh from Cambodia with the intimates of Grey Amber and Musk with the flourish of grasses delivered by delicious Vetiver from Haiti. A fragrance that vibrates on a physical mental and spiritual level as deep in its scent as the painting is in its thought-provoking questions.

D’OTTO has Sustainability at its heart doing what it can at this point to help our planet. This includes being part of Selfridge’s dedicated curation of more sustainable products, the Project Earth Edit. Each bottle is recyclable, made of glass for cosmetic use and decorated with non-polluting materials. The paper and cardboard of the packaging are produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. For the paper and wooden components of their products, only select suppliers who are FSC certified. The tray is fully recyclable. The box is reusable.

There are no boundaries in the Arts, each informs each, and each inspires the other. Therefore it makes total sense to have a collection of perfumery inspired by artworks after all it could just as easily be the other way.

Launched Selfridges.com on and in stores 19th June 2022 Find out more about the brand at D’Otto Here

If you enjoyed reading Abstract Scent why not read Flash Words Here

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