Scent as a feeling:
An interview with still life artist Sonia Rentsch

Photography by Maxime Poiblanc


Art Director and Still Life Artist, Sonia Rentsch, creates beautiful still life imagery with emotive depth and a talent for the idiosyncratic.  An Australian living in New York, she created a series with French photographer Maxime Poiblanc featuring botanicals and the element of fire for Subtle Bodies. 

SB: Tell us about your story as a still life artist?

An Industrial Designer by degree, I was struggling to find work after relocating to Berlin in 2009. Nine months of unemployment later I landed an assistant role to an artist who made conceptual artworks she captured in photography - it was a world I didn’t even know existed. Six months later on return to Australia I recognised there was a huge gap in the market for people making this type of work.

I spent months hunting down photographers whose work I thought would sit well with my aesthetic and convinced lots of them to have coffee with me. One trusting man told me to bring him an idea to shoot, liked it, and suggested we try another. Those images unexpectedly made the front cover of The Washington Post Magazine and the rest is history!

What’s one element of still life that you love?

The intense attention to detail a small team of collaborators will muse over to perfect a work.

Where do you find inspiration?

I think there’s no one specific place or thing for me. All artists are poets at heart so a dapple of light that catches your eye in a place you see everyday or a stroll in a foreign land can equally stir ideas.

Talk us through your creative process for this series?

Maxime was determined that we not actually include the incense in the imagery and invoke a mood representing Subtle Bodies. This enabled me to explore the playfulness of elements and ponder scent as a feeling.


My home contains a multitude of incense, candles and oils that I sift through depending on my mood.


Which Subtle Bodies incense embodies the mood of each series of images?

I don’t think we should specify and instead let them be read each to the pleasure and interpretation of the viewer.

How do you incorporate the ritual of scent in your space?

I’ve never been very good at meditating but am addicted to swimming laps - being surrounded by a body of water that revives and calms me.  I picture lighting incense as a similar experience in scent - being surrounded by something that alters my state of being. My home contains a multitude of incense, candles and oils that I sift through depending on my mood. My favourite scent that Subtle Bodies makes is the Australian sandalwood which takes me home when I’m far away.