lucy hardcastle's

intangible matter



A digital journey to make the invisible, visible. Inspired by CHANEL Nº5 L’Eau.
Explore the physical and virtual elements of scent by deconstructing its unseen elements, combining the scientific yet emotive components of fragrance in a digital space.
Each individual journey is unique to the user through the interactions and tasks of each space, creating a visual and sonic world of discovery.

Please note this project contains flashing images.

Drawing from her background in textiles, Lucy Hardcastle creates work that pleases the eye: unguent lustrous blobs quiver across the screen, hypnotic streams of colour pour into dense pools of white and multicoloured chunks of glossy solids – indistinguishable between jelly or glass – sit mouthwateringly with softly textured perfect spheres. Her boundary-pushing work, which blurs the lines between computer graphics, printed textiles and photorealism, riffs on the balance between human craft and generated perfection. “I really focus on everything being tactile and enhancing that. I like to think about how blind people consume textures. I’m drawn to things like velvet and satin and flock textures – the way you see and the way you touch them really connects; it’s almost like sign language for fabrics,” she states.

In terms of a website, it’s really something that hasn’t been done before

Taking her brief from The Fifth Sense, she wanted to combine the idea of scent with the already existing sensory angle of her work and make something unique. The result is inspiring and impressive: a jewellery box of compartments and chambers to discover online – actual objects that you want to touch and lick that have the duality of being hyper-real but also action filled digital responses. “In terms of a website, it’s really something that hasn’t been done before – people haven't had the reason to make a site built with WebGL that's so visual. We wanted to make work that makes other people question how we did it.”

Inspired by the CHANEL Nº5 L’Eau fragrance and how it empowers its wearer, the result is ‘scent as code’ – an immersive audio-visual space that breaks down the different elements of fragrance, connecting the viewers senses in an exploration into the physical and virtual properties of fragrance. “Initially I went on lots of websites and saw what people had guessed the different notes in the fragrance to be, as it's obviously a secret. I spent a lot of time smelling it – I went to Grasse, they had a lot of plants I had never seen before, like the tuberose. It’s so interesting, it’s a really expensive rose that is pretty much only used for perfume. We tried to implement the shape of the tuberose into the object that you see in the Molten room – it’s a different, mutated version of it. I like to make things that appear familiar but you don’t know why it’s familiar. I really wanted each space to be a different emotion, a different mood. Soft feels heavenly and light – to me it was a room that was meant to be about the personal relationship you may have with fragrance. I guess that’s how those two piece together in my head.”

I really wanted each space to be a different emotion, a different mood

In figuring out the different moods that exist around her own experience with fragrance: the chemical reaction, the personal and physical aspect of it and the idolisation of the fragrance bottle itself, Hardcastle’s takeaway is a new interpretation of physicalising fragrance from a female artist's perspective. Each of the four rooms, Mist, Molten, Beam, and Soft, ask the viewer to complete a task before moving on to the next one – whether that be popping molecules of fragrance to start a chemical reaction in Mist or mimicking the physical process of extraction by breaking a ring and releasing virtual lava in Molten. At every step of the experience, each click is accompanied by a different sound – ethereal, ghostly choirs, satisfying ‘wump wump’s gently mimic the noise of pillows being thrown in Soft. Working with Kuwaiti-born, NY-based composer Fatima Al Qadiri and Chinese popstar Chris Lee (Li Yuchun), a single track was created and then broken a part with corresponding sounds with objects in each room. Hardcastle notes that, “In real life, there’s never silence. The music element was important so you felt totally immersed and as if you’re really inside this virtual reality.” Once the first four spaces have been experienced, the viewer is ushered into a fifth space which unlocks the full track and accompanying music video.

Behind The Scenes

Episode 3

At still only 24, Hardcastle is simultaneously studying her masters in Information Experience Design at the Royal College of Art. “Think of it as interactive design but grounded in data. I have a real gang of creatives,” she continues, “I just feel that as a young person, as long as you carve out a space for yourself and have a community, then you’ll be cool."