Colour as Narrative at Illuminum Perfume Gallery


“We believe that our sense of smell is learnt from deeply embedded associations with colour and texture. What happens when we soften and unlearn our logic for interpreting scents.” Asakala Geraghty, Creative Director at Illuminum London.


Architect Antonino Cardillo’s Colour as Narrative at Illuminum Perfume Gallery is a unique olfactory experience that weaves together subtle sensory stimuli through its use of a space within a space, recesses of light, and, contrary to its title, the awareness of scent through its sparse use of colour.

Illuminum’s 37 fragrances hang suspended from the ceiling of the installation, the walls of which are made from a mixture of Vesuvian Pozzolanic Ash and putty lime, that plays with themes of antiquity and modernity. In Colour as Narrative, Mr Cardillo employs a very ancient material in a very contemporary setting, no less so with the busy comings and goings of Dover Street just outside, which gives the experience of being within Colour as Narrative the feeling of being immersed in a lunar landscape. I was able to see so much life happening just outside, but I also felt strangely disconnected and sheltered from it. When silence fell, and another sense was stripped away, I instantly became aware of the atmosphere the space, almost as if the air took on a different weight.

ColourAsNarrative_3The perfumes orbit throughout the space as if they are a constellation all their own. Each scent captured within its own tiny, glass world; however, it is within these worlds where the colour of Colour as Narrative is experienced. The stripped back feel and lack of other sensory cues allow the fragrances to speak a language of their very own, each with its own story to tell.

‘Scent Suspended’: an olfactive glass installation designed by Asakala Geraghty and mouth blown by glass artist Elliot Walker

‘Scent Suspended’: olfactive glass bowls designed by Asakala Geraghty and mouth blown by glass artist Elliot Walker.

Visiting the installation was a fantastic sensory experience, and I really have to commend Mr Cardillo and Illuminum for their great work in bringing together so many elements into the experience of being within the physical space of Colour as Narrative.

“Stripping away learnt associations built around graphics, names, ingredients encourages a more physical and intuitive experience of scent; the components of which (fragrance oils) are originally sourced from the earth. Closer to the earth within the grotto, visitors are invited to experience a rite: exploring their personal narrative, their personal journey among the thirty-seven invisible and concealed odorous places”



While I was there I took the opportunity to try on Illuminum’s Limited Edition Majestic Oud that combined dark spices with floral notes drowning beneath thick, oily, medicinally tinged oud. A primordial performance art interpretation of the Birth of Venus.

Colour as Narrative is free to visit at Illuminum Perfume Gallery at 41 Dover Street, London W1S 4NS throughout the summer of 2015.

‘Colour as a Narrative’ by Antonino Cardillo architect for Illuminum. Photography is courtesy of Antonino Cardillo.

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