Monday, 25 October 2010

Gorilla Perfumes: ICON

My wife and I are hagiographers. Having both grown up immersed in Orthodoxy, we have come to appreciate the depiction of saints and angels in history through the ecclesiastic icons of the Byzantine age - and we are now painting them ourselves, using time-honoured materials and preserving ancient tools and techniques. Hagiography is an art form which has entire schools dedicated to its methodology and teachings. It is no surprise then, that our noses were twitching with anticipation when we learned of the fragrance named ICON launched by British firm LUSH under their Gorilla Perfumes guise. Co-founder of Lush Handmade Cosmetics, Mark Constantine is the perfumer behind this particular scent... just one of 21 creations in their current perfume portfolio.

Icon is a standout scent to me, because I am familiar with its inspiration. And I feel it does justice. Anyone who has ever stepped inside an orthodox church or monastery dating from the 15th century can't help but feel overwhelmed. Centuries-old wood carvings and ornamentation embellish every shadowy corner, where the air is thick with the perfume of old wood and precious resins smoking in concealed censers. The air shimmers with amber light as even the tiniest of flames from beeswax candles that have been lit in prayer, pick out the exquisite icons from the gloom. Icon (the perfume) seems to embrace much of this... there is a strong sense of chairoscuro in its composition, where dappled lights and deep shadows butt against one another. The perfume is relatively uncomplicated... and I might say "naive", but this is to it's merit - the Byzantine painting style is also often unsophisticated. Whilst an icon may be beautifully ornate and inspire awe, these were first painted in an age where perspective was still unheard of; and where natural biological proportions were as yet unexplored.

Icon deftly interprets the aroma of gold and old wood... its opening of sharp bergamot, mandarin and neroli create a glinting metallic accord. It is crisp, radiant and somewhat fragile... like the impossibly thin gold leaf that is used to glorify depictions of the saints... gold sheets that will turn to powder at the slightest touch, or be whisked away to cartwheel on the air with just a whisper of breath. Resinous myrrh lends a slightly bitter quality, but also summons images of smoke-filled churches where the valuable stones are burnt over coal discs. An aromatic base of sandalwood imbues the perfume with a sense of antiquity, representing wooden pews and ornately carved arches. Icon triumphs with its contradictory facets of golden radiance and dusky solemnity.

Mark Constantine has noted that he'd like to revisit Icon and tweak it some more, but I would prefer he leave it be. I celebrate its naivety as much as I celebrate its gloriousness.

If you would like to view some of our artwork, please visit this link.


Bloody Frida said...

I need to try ICON (I was raised Roman Catholic and love the scents of churches), and your art work is absolutely amazing!

Angela Cox said...

I love your Icons ,Raphael is a favourite as it's the middle name of my hero . I don't think I'll be able to afford one but they are exquisite . I had a Polish friend who despite being Catholic ,not Orthodox, adored Icons and painted some naive ones.I have never taken drugs and am reasonably sane but have seen an angel who was enormous . I am a Quaker so used to very plain houses of worship.

Scott said...

Dimitri: Your icons are beautiful, they exude a calm, spiritual glow. The gold leafing and color choices are fabulous. And the website is lovely! I'll have to track down a sample of ICON, sounds right up my alley.

flittersniffer said...

I liked ICON when I tried it recently, and want to retest it with your beautiful review resonanting in my head at the time. And those gorgeous illustrations!

Michael Mattison said...

As if I needed more temptation! When it comes to the woody-smoky-spicy stuff, you'd think I'd already have enough, but then I read your review with terms like "chiaroscuro", "amber light", "perfume of old wood and precious resins" and I find myself needing to sample this one, fast.
Great writing!
Looking forward to experiencing this one.
Hey, quick question: Did you ever start wearing "Wonderwood" by chance? Would be interested in hearing how it does on skin.

Take care,

Dimitri said...

Thank you Michael,
Icon focuses slightly more on the citrus/myrrh aspect, but the sweet sandalwood is there too. I dont imagine you'll be disappointed - especially if keeping my comments about a sense of naivete in mind.
I have worn Wonderwood and adore it... my comments in my Wonderwood blog are still valid, - it wears close to the skin but if applied liberally will last many hours on me. Its very addictive. CdG continue to make exceptional perfumes!