Berndnaut Smilde (b. 1978) creates clouds indoors. The works, titled Nimbus, are made using smoke and water vapour and exist for a very short period of time – just 10 seconds – before disappearing. It’s in this window of opportunity that the Dutch visual artist is able to take an awe-inspiring picture. The series is listed amongst TIME Magazine’s Top Ten Inventions, and is held in Smithsonian and Saatchi collections.
“People have always had a strong metaphysical connection to clouds and, through time, have projected many ideas on them,” Smilde notes. “They can be interpreted as a sign of loss or becoming, or just as a fragment from a classical painting.” Backdrops to his images are often grandiose, with high ceilings, large windows and elaborate decor. The end result is spectral, ethereal – even slightly threatening.
Whilst Nimbus appears to defy nature, with Smilde taking on the role of “controlling” the weather, the artist is more interested in the temporary aspect of these happenings. “The physical side is really important but, in the end, the work only exists as a photograph. Nimbus presents a transitory moment of presence in a specific location. The photo functions as a document of something that happened, and is now gone.”
1. Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus Green Room 2013. Photo: RJ Muna.
2. Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus De Toekomst II 2019. Photo: Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.
3. Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus Metaal Kathedraal 2020. Photo: Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.
4. Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus De.Groen 2017. Photo: Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.
5. Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus Munnekeholm 2012. Photo: Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.
6. Berndnaut Smilde, Nimbus Royal West 2019. Photo: Cassander Eeftinck Schattenker.