Suzannah Pettigrew's Take On Ghost Flower
It was her ‘Safety Glass’ performance with long-time collaborator, George Jasper Stone that served as our introduction to George’s work, and subsequently led us to work with the artist to bring Altra’s otherworldly aesthetic to life in their immersive digital scentscapes.
After nearly 20 years of friendship between Suz and Altra co-founder Beckielou, it was but a natural progression for them to collaborate. We invited Suz to create work in response to Ghost Flower - her favourite scent in the collection – and the result was a series of photographs and a poem; beautifully intertwined mediums that add another facet to the emotions and imagery that the scent evokes.
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BL: We’re in love with the poem you wrote for Ghost Flower, it so beautifully captures the quiet, calm romance of the scent. What initially drew you to Ghost Flower and how did your connection with the scent play into your collaboration?
SP: it took me over a month to decide which of the five Altra fragrances I connected with the most and I finally chose Ghost Flower. I’ve always been drawn to smokey woody scents but Ghost Flower is so unique layered with the white lily and incense. It feels sensual, grounding and rich, like it has some stories to tell me. When I wrote the poem I imagined I was the smoke from the incense in the photographs I shot being chased and being the chaser.
I approach writing poetry as a world building practice, to create synchronicity and connection with the reader. A mode of collecting and capturing fragments of events, exchanges and feelings that otherwise may have been forgotten. To draw focus on sensuality, both the thrill and the fallout. Often it’s how I remember; through erotic markers of the past.
BL: For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been a lover of perfume. What is your most poignant scent memory?
SP: My mother and her mother were avid gardeners so I’ve always been surrounded by beautiful plants, flowers and gardens. I was taught about scent through what they grew. Such as my grandmother's conservatory that grew peaches, her tomato filled greenhouse or the fragrant lilac tree that was in the garden of our family home. I also have vivid memories of making jam, marmalade and cakes with my grandparents and the potent sweet fragrances filling the house.
BL: How does scent play a role in your life and/or your creative practice? Do you have any rituals that involve scents?
SP: I honour the moon cycles and create rituals to align with them and what I’m working through in my life. I’m particularly fond of myrtle, rosemary and copal for aiding ceremony alongside sage and palo santo which I use daily.
BL: What are you looking forward to in 2023 – are there any projects or shows that you’re working on that you can share with us?
SP: I’m exhibiting some work in early February in Berlin with curatorial duo The Fairest. The rest are unannounced and secrets for now!
POEM BY SUZANNAH PETTIGREW
I hear whispers of us up close together,
and chases us.
The air is filled with waves of joy,
where the potency reveals
how we are layered together.
A sun scorched red earth
dusted with burnt orange,
telling tales of holding the heat.
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