Colour as a narrative: perfume brand Illuminum explores realm of scent through architecture

A game of light and shadow
Living behind a portal on a Georgian street, the grey 'chambers of light' features three tall openings facing the street, which orchestrate a game of light and shadow
(Image credit: Press)

The Illuminum perfume gallery in London has unveiled a new installation by the architect Antonino Cardillo, which suggests a whole new way that fragrance is communicated to an inquisitive public.

Originally the progeny of hair stylist Michael Boadi, already the creative force behind the perfume line Boadicea the Victorious, Illuminum began life as a line of around 30 distinctive scents, and with the help of investors, set up home in the prime gallery and fashion retail spot of Dover Street in London's Mayfair in 2011. Last year the creative direction switched from Boadi to Asakala Geraghty, a Central St Martin's alumni, until now hailed primarily for her own couture knitwear label.

Under Geraghty's direction the focus has fallen on using art and architecture to present the scent stories the brand is generating. Earlier this year abstract grafitti artist Remi Rough was let loose in the space, turning it entirely into an artwork, inspired by Illuminum's newest launch, White Oud. Three months on, and the space has been overhauled by the sensuous architect Antonino Cardillo. In stark contrast to Rough's colour explosion, Cardillo, who has a fascination for ancient architecture practices, has neutralised the environment with shades of grey, concentrating on creating a textural grotto, where the mind cannot be influenced by anything but the textures of the interior, the light hitting it, and the scent.

Surrounded by walls daubed crudely with pozzolanic ash from Vesuvius (mixed with putty lime, as it would have been for the construction of the Pantheon, in a ratio of 6:4), is a gently arcing installation of hanging stoppered glass jars. Designed by Geraghty and mouth-blown by Elliot Walker they contain the line's 37 scents. The more intense aromas gather at the peak of the curve. By Cardillo's design, it's the scents that bring colour to the space. Visitors can remove the cork stoppers to sample the fragrances, and in an environment stripped of colour, graphics, names, ingredients, the scents are able to capture their full attention, the essences being perceived purely intuitively.

Called 'Colour as a Narrative' Geraghty sees the installation as making a link between scent, colour and texture. 'We believe that our sense of smell is learnt from deeply embedded associations with colour and texture,' she explains. 'By blurring identifications and triggers for the way the human mind categorises, our impressions become less linear and more intuitive.'

While the line rebrands its graphic identity, this experimental approach to communicating scent is refreshing. In place for three months, we are looking forward to the next gallery takeover and discipline-crunching concept.

With rugged walls

With rugged walls and volcanic pozzolanic ash topography, invisible colours are only revaled by the nose

(Image credit: Press)

A black thread in a semi-circle

The rough, grey walls are the backdrop for thirty-seven swinging irregular glass forms, each suspended by a black thread in a semi-circle

(Image credit: Press)


Illuminum Fragrance, 41 Dover Street, London W1S 4NS