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Berndnaut Smilde Creates Clouds Indoors

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde has become known for his Nimbus series comprised of striking images of ‘real’ clouds suspended within empty rooms. Smilde’s godlike powers come from simple science — he carefully regulates the temperature and humidity of the space, ensuring that conditions are perfect. Then, he sprays a short burst from a fog machine to create a cottony cloud suspended in the middle of the room for just long enough to be photographed.

Berndnaut Smilde

Nimbus Green Room (2013) at The Green Room, War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, San Francisco, USA.
Picture: Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery

“I’m interested in the ephemeral aspect of the work,” Smilde said. “It’s there for a brief moment and then the cloud falls apart. It’s about the potential of the idea, but in the end it will never function.”

Berndnaut Smilde

Nimbus Cukurcuma Hamam II (2012) at the historic Çukurcuma Hamam in Istanbul, Turkey.
Picture: Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery

Smilde’s work centers on an impermanent state of being between construction and deconstruction and is often about situations that deal with duality.

Berndnaut Smilde

Nimbus NP3 (2012) at NP3 mobile container art space, Groningen, the Netherlands.
Picture: Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery

Back in 2010, Smilde conceived the idea of creating “the ultimate work of disappointment”. It was a whimsical cartoon-like fantasy: “You would come into this beautiful museum space and there would be nothing, just a cloud. It would rain on you as well.”

Berndnaut Smilde

Nimbus Sankt Peter (2014) at the Kunst-Station Sankt Peter, Cologne, Germany.
Picture: Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery

Carried away with the idea, Smilde finally mastered his first large-scale nimbus in 2012, in a converted chapel in the town of Hoorn, north Holland. An online video of the event made by a local newspaper went viral and within months an email arrived from Charles Saatchi: would Smilde send over a photograph of the work to feature in the Saatchi Gallery’s photography show. Time Magazine called his technique one of the fifty best inventions of 2012.

Berndnaut Smilde

Nimbus Munnekeholm (2012) at the old Munnekeholm Post Office, Groningen, the Netherlands.
Picture: Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery

Since then 17 carefully chosen rooms around the world, from San Francisco to Istanbul have played host to a Nimbus, each one photographed to form a part of a series.

Berndnaut Smilde

Nimbus LOT (2013) at the Land of Tomorrow gallery, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Picture: Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery

He chooses surreal spaces, such as empty churches or galleries, as his setting. A running theme in Smilde’s work is how architectural spaces frame the meanings of the objects within them.

berndnaut smilde

Nimbus Çukurcuma Hamam I, (2012) at the historic Çukurcuma Hamam in Istanbul, Turkey.
Picture: Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery

His work playfully disrupts indoor spaces, bringing a part of the visual language of the outdoors within. In this way, his artwork transforms the space it works in, infusing a sense of mystery.

 

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