Lucy Hardcastle’s sculptural forms poetically abstract Uniqlo’s AIRism range


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Style doesn’t have to be superficial; it can keep you warmer, cooler, drier. Uniqlo creates LifeWear by evolving the ordinary, producing innovations that benefit you every day.

As part of our Ones to Watch 2018 campaign, It’s Nice That is working with Uniqlo to explore a variety of its products through a series of creative commissions. The first in the series, launching today, sees visual artist Lucy Hardcastle interpreting the technology of AIRism in a new perspective.

The AIRism range uses technology to release heat and moisture while also incorporating anti-odour technology in its quick-drying, stretchy material. Although particularly useful in the summer (especially if travelling anywhere on the London Underground), AIRism is worn by people across the globe, every day. To grab a free sample of either the men’s AIRism V-neck short sleeve T-shirt or the women’s AIRism camisole, head down to Uniqlo’s flagship London store at 311 Oxford Street between 30 June and 1 July.

“For me, AIRism ultimately demonstrates the power of material technology to create an experience for the wearer that is lighter than air,” states visual artist Lucy Hardcastle, “beyond the physical, it is emotive and means freedom and the ability to express yourself.” Tasked with the challenge of responding creatively to Uniqlo’s AIRism product line, Lucy has created a series of five solid forms which embody the properties and technology underpinning AIRism.

Titled Air Monuments, the series of sculptures are a physically abstract representation of the immaterial experience of wearing the product. Although unseen, this experience is strongly felt and Lucy’s sculptures of glass, plaster and clay visualise this in a visceral manner.

After receiving the brief, Lucy unpacked the elements of AIRism to ascertain which areas aligned with her practice, including sweat absorption and its anti-odour capabilities which keep the wearer dry, cool and comfortable. However, it was “being shown, on a microscopic level, how the fabric was engineered” that sparked a series of possible outcomes. “The fact that it acted as a silky second skin caught my attention as I’m always exploring the concept of comfort in my work, whether it be physical or psychological,” she adds.

“We originally looked at Peter Sloterdijk’s written theory on bubbles and ‘Microspherology’ to give us conceptual inspiration, where he talks of there being an intimacy to the roundness of bubbles and how they are a medium for soul expansion,” Lucy recalls. With this in mind, the resulting Air Monuments are a sensual and emotional reflection of AIRism focusing on aerodynamics, expansion, inflation and comfort. “There are multiple processes involved and it was important to me that everything was made by my own hands,” the artist tells It’s Nice That. Using these processes, Lucy was able to turn an intangible element like experience into something physical that aligns with the concept of freedom that AIRism enables.

The first technique employed by Lucy was glassblowing, resulting in two sculptures. The first represents the capture, release and expression of both air and moisture that AIRism offers in a spontaneous, bubble-like, inflated shape with notes of purple glinting within the sphere. The second also features a bubble-like shape, although in this instance it’s grounded, nestled onto a precious rock forming a stark and arresting contrast.

For the remaining three Air Monuments Lucy utilised hand carving and casting with materials like clay and plaster. These sculptures are a manifestation of the control, comfort and movement that AIRism offers. With one sculpture finished in purple flocking (the process of depositing many small fibre particles, called flock, onto a surface) and the other two in shades of blue, the sculptures are playful, providing an emotive response to what started as extremely technological properties. All five sculptures not only represent their properties through their final form but also through their processes. The glass sculptures required a literal release of air, whereas the clay and plaster objects’ movement was shaped and controlled by their casts.

As well as existing as physical embodiments of AIRism, Lucy’s Air Monuments have been translated into photographic images by her long-term collaborator Gareth Williams. “We had quite a still life approach for how we wanted to document the objects, as they needed to be the full focus of the image,” Lucy explains. With a combination of hero shots, showing the full form of the object and more detailed, macro shots, the images champion each sculpture’s textural qualities. With a curved background, the photographs reference movement within their composition, striking a balance between suspending the objects and maintaining a sense of realism.

In both their physical form and resulting photographs, Lucy’s Air Monuments poetically abstract the science that forms the basis of AIRism. By harnessing the “creative potential of bubbles”, she visualises the intangible, mirroring the product’s capability to enable freedom and expression through a creative outlet.

To claim your free sample of AIRism, head to Uniqlo’s flagship London store at 311 Oxford Street between 30 June and 1 July and heading to the fourth floor. (Terms and conditions apply.) To find out more about the AIRism range and its features, head to Uniqlo’s website.

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.

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