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Nimbus by Berndnaut Smilde

There are some urban legends that send a chill racing down the spine at the mere thought of them. And then there are those that seem almost magical – the stories you hope can be proven true.

Sitting somewhere in the middle of this spectrum of urban legends is Berndnaut Smilde’s Nimbus photographic series. Were it not for the artist’s shutterbug tendencies, his indoor cloud creations would simply exist as a wild tale of a whimsical artist who brings nature inside. Thankfully (or perhaps much to the disappointment of those who enjoy debunking myths), his cloud creations, which dissipate almost as soon as they form, have been immortalised on camera. Berndnaut creates his indoor clouds by carefully adjusting the temperature and humidity levels within a room. To enhance the realism and drama of each photograph, he then also tweaks the lighting of the space before taking a photo.

While his final images appear to be whimsical at a first glance, they also artfully instil a sense of melancholy. Culturally, the cloud has become a symbol of misfortune – something that lingers over unlucky cartoon characters and glides in to dampen golden summer days. It was this symbolism, along with the ephemeral and physical nature of clouds that inspired Berndnaut to create Nimbus. The Dutch artist is intrigued by the temporality and function of materials and, as a result, his works exist somewhere between reality and representation, often depicting scenarios that don’t really function. By photographing clouds in transitory spaces such as hallways, not only is the fleeting nature of the moment enhanced, but the meanings one would commonly project onto a cloud become distorted.


Image: Nimbus D’Aspremont, 2012, courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery. Photography by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.