Place: VUB Brussels, KultuurKaffee Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussel | City: Ixelles, Belgium
Ukrainian artist 'Caflo Yrot' (1874 – 1970)
Whole his life, he never exhibited his works. Caflo Yrot is his pseudonym, because of political and personal reasons, he never wanted to use his proper name. Peter de Cupere discovered him through his doctoral thesis at the PXL Mad-Faculty in Hasselt Belgium where he is teaching at the Media Lab Free Arts and where he coordinates the Master Studio Art Vision Lab. It was the son of Caflo Yrot who contacted Peter de Cupere and brought him into contact with his father’s works.
In the exhibition 'Perfume Bottles' in Art History The Olfactory showed already some works of this until now unkown artist.
In the exhibition: 'CAFLO YROT 1874 - 1970 "Solve et Coagula" (Dissolve and unite)' we show some collage works and the odorgraph he made to capture the smell of his own home.
Exhibition in ‘The Olfactory’, Thursday Oct. 30, 2014-10-30
Ukrainian artist Caflo Yrot was a doctor, interpreter and teacher and in his free time he made pieces of art in which primarily scent as medium and the idea of scent was at the middle. However, he never brought his works to the outside. Beginning of April 2014, Caflo’s son contacted the artist and researcher Peter de Cupere to introduce him to the works of his father.
Caflo Yrot’s son, 94 years old, bedridden and ill moved to Belgium two years ago for treatment. He chose to make his father’s last wish reality and present his oeuvre to the outside world with the respect to keep the identity of his family a secret.
His father reasoned that scents would be used more and more in visual arts well beyond his death. His son chose to contact Peter de Cupere about this. He read about his doctorate in the arts and that ‘de Cupere’ also does research into the use of scents in art history for his doctoral thesis. Caflo’s son respects Peter de Cupere’s work and therefore found him to be the most suited person to have him show the work to the outside world. The travelling exhibition project ‘The Olfactory’ by Peter de Cupere seemed to ‘de Cupere’ the most appropriate to achieve a first acquaintance with Caflo’s work. Previously work by Caflo Yrot was shown in a group exhibition in ‘The Olfactory’ on perfume bottles in art history.
Caflo Yrot is a pseudonym. If you put the family name before the first name and then read the name from back to front, you have the word ‘olfactory’. The link with the exhibition project ‘The Olfactory’ by Peter de Cupere is pure coincidence. Olfactory art is a general term used to interpret art with scent. Nevertheless, it was the wish of Caflo Yrot that his real name would never be known. Thus, his 94-year-old son respects the wish of his father and he does not want to abandon his identity. This makes it difficult to check the story of his son. Furthermore one can question whether or not it is relevant to make the unknown artist known after his death whereas the artist himself did not want to bring out his works to the outside world.
The son of Caflo Yrot argues that not revealing his true identity is because his father found the artist behind the work to be less important than the work itself. If art is referenced to, the artist is put in the foreground of the art work, whereas the work should be the most important element. Art should speak for itself and it is not up to the artist to respond as to how a work should be interpreted or looked at. In light of this, we can understand the reason for not revealing his own identity, but why has he not shown his works previously?
The response of Caflo’s son to this is that his father had an important function and that he feared to lose his job should one have known what kind of art he made. Caflo Yrot was the personal doctor, interpreter of a rich and conservative person and also taught his children. He travelled a lot with his employer and declares that some works have a link or a reference to the visited countries. His art works were his exhaust valve to rebel against traditional values.
One should place this in the spirit of the age. Art was at end of the 1800, beginning of the 1900 not so extremely progressive in Ukraine.
Nevertheless, one can say that Caflo Yrot’s work is very progressive for the period in which he lived. To see your own body as a perfume bottle (Le Parfum de Sang, 1899) or to make a smell apparatus of a camera (Odorgraph, 1912) is far ahead of his time. For this fact alone, it is already interesting to investigate the work of Caflo Yrot further. Whether or not it should receive the necessary attention will depend on the further communication between Peter de Cupere and the son of Caflo Yrot for as far as the latter is still capable to capture everything digitally auditive.
In this exhibition you receive a short overview of a series of works in which Caflo Yrot’s sees the clown’s nose as a symbol. He did not only see the clown’s nose as a funny element, but also as mockery and point of interest. In the exhibition you can see a composition with post stamps in which post stamp from Hitler with a clown’s nose were painted. Here the clown’s nose is central as a symbol of mockery. It was Caflo’s manner in which to react to the Second World War.
Besides this, there are images of Liz Taylor with a clown’s nose. The Clown’s noses were painted with red lipstick. Caflo Yrot was a huge fan of Liz Taylor and collected articles and images of her. Because he could not reach or meet her personally, he painted clown’s noses with red lipstick as a reaction to her portraits.
He also uses the clown’s nose in multiple works. Thus he made a series of postal cards of pharmacies in which he applied the red round nose in a flask and he also applied the clown’s nose to postal cards of public buildings.
1.Odorgraph ( запахвидовище ), 1912:Caflo Yrot made a smell camera from an Eastman Kodak vintage camera (1910). He picked the lens from the camera and replaced it with a funnel. Inside he applied a piece (presumably odourless) soap which attracted and retained scents. He left this work, together with other Odorgraphs, standing in his living room during his whole life. After his death, the scent of his life could thus go into history.
2‘Nez Prolongé’ (prolonged nose): ‘Sur un air Américain’ (On American air), belongs to a series of works where a simple line prolongs the nose. This type of work Caflo Yrot always called ‘Nez Prolongé’ despite the depicted represented something different.
3. Nose to See / Nose Seen: in the shape of the framework of camera’s, Caflo Yrot saw the shape of a nose. With a bit of phantasy one can imagine this. He thus wanted to question the most important sense and say that smells also capture memories. A beautiful poetic reflection on what and how to capture a moment. Not just through a picture, but also through scent.
4.‘Nez Prolongé’: belongs to a series of works where a simple line prolongs the nose. This type of work Caflo Yrot always called ‘Nez Prolongé’ despite the depicted represented something different.
5. My Favorite Nose (мійулюбленийніс), 1959 - 1965: Caflo Yrot was a huge fan of Liz Taylor and collected articles and images of her. Because he could not reach or meet her personally, he painted clown’s noses with red lipstick as a reaction to her portraits. The clown’s nose was a more loaded symbol to Caflo than only a funny reference. He always called his clown’s nose’s works ‘Tabac à priser rouge’ (red snuff tobacco). He liked to use titles in other languages than Ukrainian. He always looked for a title with a double meaning. ‘Tabac à priser’ means snuff tobacco, rouge refers to the red colour of the clown’s nose.
6.Le parfum de sang (the perfume of blood), 1899: As a medicine man, Caflo Yrot was strongly interested in the body and the scents of the human body. He found the most personal perfume to be the proper blood. Nevertheless blood has a rather metallic smell. Blood was life’s perfume for Caflo. Without blood one cannot live, but one cannot smell their life’s perfume because it is inside our body. To be able to perceive it, he came up with the idea of a perfume pump connected with a needle. By pricking in your body and dispersing the blood on your own skin, one could smell your own life’s perfume. An absurd idea, but very daring for his time.
7.‘Tabac à priser rouge’: His ‘Tabac à priser rouge’ consisted out of different themes. He made a series of postal cards of pharmacies in which he applied the red ball in a flask. This red ball one can see as a clown’s nose as is the case in other works. Another series existed out of applying a red ball to images of public buildings. He always hung these works upside down. This hanging upside down was not a pure aesthetical decision. For Caflo Yrot it meant that one should read this work differently, in other words in the opposite direction. Thus the clown’s nose should be read here and something not cheerfully fun, but rather as a painful meaning. It was his way to react to certain situations. A wonderful example of this is his series with Hitler’s stamps. As an extreme anti-Hitler person, he wanted to mock him by sticking a red nose on him and hanging it upside down. Please notice that not all works showed Hitler upside down, but this was certainly not out of sympathy, but more out of a ridiculous reaction to see Hitler as clownesque. This was always combined with multiple post stamps with the image of Hitler which were hanging upside down.
Some Photos of works in the exhibition:
- Odorgraph ( запах видовище - Smell Catcher) : To record smell and keep it in a soap special made to hold scent
- мій улюблений ніс ( My Favorite Nose ): Cafle Yrot loved Liz Taylor. She was his favorite actor. He adored her.
- ніс бачити (Nose to See / Nose Seen) : protectives of old cameras seen as nose