Tuesday 15 June 2010


Being romantically inclined, I had always been drawn to the idea that one's favourite perfume should be an invisible, unconscious signature - Chanel's unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion…. that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure.

Finding a scent that perfectly describes you is no easy task: it seems to require an outrageously bold sense of self, or the kind of dog-like nature that constantly wants to mark its territory. For many years I opted out of the whole thing, and wore whatever I'd been given for Christmas: if you don't quite know who you are, how can you determine a signature scent, or a signature style? Even my signature at the bottom of letters and on cheques was a somewhat indeterminate scrawl.

Still, the idea persisted. It once took me all around Paris - to Caron, to the wonderful Guerlain boutique on the Champs-Elysee, to tiny perfumiers in dark streets off the Marais, in a Grenouille*-like hunt for the hit of recognition that would mean the scent was mine. But, although I discovered many delicious things on that trip - Jolie Madame, Shocking, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noir, Chanel No.22, Balenciaga's Le Dix - the perfect perfume eluded the imperfect me.

Many years later I've learned how to be happier with myself, and to accept my mutable nature. I'm no longer so obsesssed with there being one defining scent, and so I've ended up with a portfolio of perfumes which project different facets and moods. Mitsouko lends me a sophistication and glamour I don't always feel; I like to pretend I have it in me to be as mysterious and complex as Ormonde Woman; Diorella's bright, herby androgyny suggests a breezy efficiency that belies my default behaviour in the office. Most often, you'll find me in No.5: it reminds me of my Grandmother, whose influence on my life I didn't appreciate until long after she died. I like its rather old-fashioned elegance - bone structure over botox, if you like. Chanel No.5 may be the world's best selling perfume, but it's thankfully, it's not the world's most frequently worn, or there'd be the olfactory memory of a zillion Mrs Trefusis' wafting round the streets of London.

Ormonde Woman, Mitsouko, No.5 and Diorella became fixtures on my dressing table after a laborious process of trial and error. I can't imagine them ever losing their enchantment but they're surrounded by a dozen other bottles of scent I've tried a couple of times and given up on. I regret the waste as much as I admire the beautiful bottles, and looking at them makes me wish I'd discovered something like Linda Pilkington's Perfume Portraits at Ormonde Jayne rather sooner. The idea is incredibly well-conceived: at the Bond Street store - and at Harrods - Linda or one of her team will take you through a simple yet sybaritic fifteen minute process designed to take the guesswork and slog out of choosing a scent that's perfectly suited to you.
Perfume Portraits starts with a short questionnaire - likes, dislikes, whether you're looking for a signature scent or something for the new season and so on - before moving onto a blind test (blind sniff?) of twenty-one different ingredients from seven fragrance families. Linda notes your instinctive reactions as you work through, building up a portrait based on those you respond to, and the process ends in a choice between the two Ormonde fragrances that will suit you best. It confirmed me in my devotion to Ormonde Woman, and brought me to Frangipani, a fresh, beautiful floral that smells exactly like a Mediterranean garden at dusk.

Perfume Portraits at Ormonde Jayne
Ormonde Jayne - 12 The Royal Arcade 28 Old Bond Street London W1S 4SL To book your perfume portrait, telephone the Bond Street boutique on. +44 (0)20 7499 1100 or email. sales@ormondejayne.com

Friday 11 June 2010



Blustering through Abstract Expressionism:
an exploration of the early work of Trefusis Minor

It is tempting to interpret Trefusis Minor’s work, particularly that from his recent blue period, exclusively as abstract expressionism, but this would be wrong. In fact it would be to underestimate the sheer emotional power of the work and the interplay with langue et parole – the disconnect between what is seen and what is meant. Certainly, a painting like Windy Beach I, 2008, shares a surface similarity with Twombly’s later abstract works, but while Twombly draws on memory, fantasy, and the irrational to create works of art that are visual analogues of classical myth and allegory, Trefusis adapts from the world around him, creating a coloured tone poem from his experiences of every day life, yet inviting us to move beyond that, from natural drama into psychodrama, and to step from reality into the imagination with all the joyful curiosity of a child.

Of course, Like Twombly, Trefusis Minor has, at this point in his artistic development, rejected the figurative and representational – though for Trefusis this remains, perhaps, in the subject-matter – citing the line or smudge – each mark with its own history – as its proper subject. Trefusis’ work has echoes of Twombly’s romantic symbolism, but with a bolder, more direct – even confrontational – edge, inviting the viewer to collude in the mise-en-scene by offering a title that can be interpreted visually through shapes and forms and words, but then rejecting that interpretation.

Interlaced in an all-over configuration, without significant focal points, the bold, swirling brushstrokes of the painting generates dynamism and energy; a continuum so charged that it seems to expand beyond the picture limits, evoking an immediate sensation of boundlessness, an endless space that is the natural world.

Trefusis Minor’s success as an artist lies in his ability to evoke the big questions. How are we to evolve unless we see ourselves as rooted in the natural world? In a world where man feels compelled to impose order, what room is there for the spontaneity of nature? What role does faith and trust in a wider plan of the universe play in these godless times? These are questions that will linger with the viewer long after they have moved away from the painting. Above all, though, Windy Beach I – like much of his early work – leaves us with a much more personal message: experience is predicated on risk, and to avoid the opportunity to explore the boundaries is to avoid engaging with life.

Not long after Trefusis Minor, aged four, swabbed a large piece of paper with colour and produced the picture above, I spent a morning with the Abstract Expressionists at Tate Modern and came back and wrote this pastiche of grand art criticism as a joke to amuse a friend. I love the swirly-nothings that children produce before they have the requisite control over a pencil to painstakingly represent their worlds with stick men and spider-figures, and since all mothers see their offspring’s daubs as prodigious works presaging future genius, I’m sure there was a part of me that wasn’t entirely in jest.
As I write this I’m staring at a couple of Trefusis Minor’s latest works taped to my office wall – one is of Batman, with huge feet and very pointy bat ears, and the other is a rather fine Spiderman, with several arms, to indicate he’s moving very fast, much in the manner of the Russian Futurists. You see – I can’t help myself – even now, I’m convinced he’s part of a great art movement.