(image Caravaggio, The Incredulity of St. Thomas)
Wading through perfume ‘spin’ is often an annoyance but it’s not particularly difficult. It’s most often cliché lifestyle advertising that is easy to dissect and dispense with. Many niche brands, though, particularly the many smaller artisinal concepts, rely on online discussions/product review, a social media presence and trade shows such as Esxence and Pitti Fragranze.
Fortunately for niche perfume companies that feature the work of a single perfumer, brand identity is easier to sell. The company and its perfumes are assumed to be a reflection of the perfumer him/herself and every comment or action of the perfumer that becomes searchable functions as promotion for the brand. Whether this sort of public transaction of oneself is onerous or satisfying will depend on the inclinations and personality of the individual.
The brand O’Driù is a perfume line that features the work of Angelo Orazio Pregoni, the brand’s founder and perfumer. O’Driù’s website product descriptions (Peety & Pathetique), interviews with Pregoni and Pregoni’s public pronouncements make the perfumer, rather than the perfumes, the heart of the matter. The perfume buyer doesn’t so much purchase a perfume as obtain a relic of the artist. The value is less smelling good than it is the communion with the artist. O’Driù asserts the quality of its products as a matter of faith. If you believe in the genius of the artist, the brilliance of the work is assumed. The perfume is superior because it is imbued with the creative essence of the artist.
Pregoni’s public discussion of himself and his work is predicated on an image of him as a transcendent artist. It states that his work defies the restraints of convention and the limited vision of other perfumers. It posits that his role as artist is to give us or show us something that we would be incapable of grasping without his intervention. (search page for “afraid”)
Is he looking for an audience or believers? The premise of art-as-faith hobbles dialogue and deflects criticism. It asks the participants to be acolytes, not audience.
The irony is that the perfumes stand on their own and don’t require this artistic placebo effect. I have worn seven of his perfumes and find them inventive and evocative. (*) They have a dynamic textural quality that reflects an imagistic compositional method and an engaged use of style and genre. Most of the perfumes use the vocabulary of Italian botanical-apothecary perfumery but they stretch beyond the vernacular and explode the genre. Herbal cues create the expectation of a naturalistic framework, but the perfumes speed past the simple, pastoral tone the style suggests. Some are more raw than others, but they all show a strong sense of aesthetic intention.
Pregoni’s approach to art-making asks for a complicity on the part of the audience, for permission to allow him to impose his ideology on them. The weight of manifesto crushes the art and Pregoni’s descriptions of both his perfume and his performance leaves little room for an audience’s experience that might vary from Pregoni’s intention. It’s possible to accept the perfume but reject the O’Driù Experience, but I choose to decline both and don’t plan to write further about O’Driù. The contemptuous and sometimes histrionic tone of Pregoni’s statements prevents my enthusiasm for following the line.
* Peety, Pathetique, Eva Kant, Ladamo, Leva, Supercillium, Haiku.