Today, we’re heightening our senses and thinking about how the sense of smell can be a powerful and thought-provoking stimulus for art.

Peter de Cupere is a Belgian olfactory artist. He uses the combination of visual images with smells to create a meta-sensory experience for the viewer. His artworks are diverse and seek to alter or awaken our perception of the world around us. He creates olfactory objects, soap paintings and sculptures, video and live performances, three-dimensional drawings and poetic smell installations.

Peter de Cupere is particularly interested in how smells act on our memory subconciously, allowing us to associate specific smells with certain moments of our lives. He is also interested in the environment, society and other issues caused by humanity, and seeks to inspire the viewer to think about his/her own environmental awareness. We get used to smells in our environment, which can make us complacent. But when confronted with the smell of air pollution in a different context, in a museum or gallery, the viewer is awoken to the environmental issue of CO2 emissions.

This is exactly what Peter de Cupere intends to do with Smoke Cloud. This work allows the viewer to climb up a ladder into the cloud and put their head through a hole in the centre. When there, they are confronted with a smell that they may not have expected. Air pollution. The artwork was exhibited in several cities around South America and in the Netherlands, and de Cupere altered the intensity of the smell according to the location. Whereas in the Netherlands, exhaust gases of cars are filtered, in Havana, the old American cars create a very intense smell of air pollution, and he wanted to mirror that in his work.

This fascinating and beautifully thought-provoking work is just one of many of de Cupere’s portfolio. To find out more about him and his previous exhibitions visit his website.

– V.B.


Bibliography and further reading:

DE CUPERE, PETER – Scent in context: olfactory art. Stockmans Kalenders bvba, 2016 


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