Artist Creates Beautiful Indoor Clouds

NIMBUS II: Artist Berndnaut Smilde has perfected the art of generating an indoor cloud. (Photos courtesy of Berndnaut Smilde).

These stunning photos of indoor clouds might look like digital creations, but they're actually of real scenes created by Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde.

The clouds are generated using a smoke machine, but Smilde must carefully monitor a room's humidity and atmosphere in order to get the smoke to hang so elegantly, and with such life-like form. Backlighting is used to bring out shadows from within the cloud, to give it that look of a looming and ominous rain cloud.

"I wanted to make the image of a typical Dutch raincloud inside a space," Smilde told Gizmag. "I'm interested in the ephemeral aspect of the work. It's there for a brief moment and then the cloud falls apart. The work only exists as a photograph."

The effect is enhanced by Smilde's choice of setting. For his original work utilizing this method, titled "Nimbus" and first presented in 2010, the artist chose an empty studio with blue walls and a red floor (shown below). The blue walls produce the surreal impression that the clouds are trapped within an enclosed sky. Their ethereal space is preserved, however, by the sharp contrast with the red floor.


Smilde's "Nimbus II," produced this year (shown below), is also produced within an empty space. But for this setting the artist chose an empty warehouse with the ambiance of a chapel. The cloud hangs beautifully, backlit like a levitating angel. Uncovered windows produce a faint greyish blue light which does not impede upon the shine seemingly sourced from the cloud itself. The room remains darkened while the cloud glows, as if it were suspended in daylight-- a juxtaposition which enhances the phantasmagorical impression of the scene.

In both settings, the clouds seem to impart the existence of a fleeting, ethereal form into an otherwise desolate space. Smilde says his purpose was to give form to "physical presence found within transitional space."