Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde and the heavenly pieces that inspire CieloSeptember 20, 2021
Listening to Berndnaut Smilde speak is a bit like listening to an architect - the Amsterdam-based artist talks at length about how he’s interested in witnessing his creations “change shape” and “reflect light,” and how each one “is rooted in a time and place.”
But Smilde isn’t discussing buildings, he’s talking about clouds, the natural phenomenon so ephemeral in nature: literally here one moment, gone the next.
It’s that sense of transience, of the “impermanent state of being,” that has obsessed the world-renowned artist ever since he created, then photographed, his first cloud installation, Nimbus, inside a small sixteenth-century chapel in Holland, back in 2012.
Smilde’s hyper-realistic cloud installations have come to life in factories, museums, castles and dungeons around the world, and to much critical acclaim. The original photo of Nimbus now resides at London’s famous Saatchi Gallery. In 2012, his innovative cloud-creating technique earned the artist a spot on Time magazine’s list of Top Inventions of the Year.
In 2013, international fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar commissioned Smilde to create the mise en scène for a series of photographs with some of the world’s most famous designers - Karl Lagerfeld, Alber Elbaz, Donatella Versace, Dolce & Gabbana - in a piece, appropriately titled, ICONOCLOUDS. In 2021, his works are inspiring Cielo.
Cielo translates as “sky and heaven” in both Italian and Spanish, and the gorgeous cloud-scraping new tower rising on Bloor Street West will stretch towards the sky, reaching up to the very clouds that fascinate Smilde. The visual artist was initially inspired by the ubiquitous presence of cumulus clouds in classical Dutch paintings, a reflection of the country’s infamously rainy landscape. But, where Smilde’s artistic ancestors merely painted these magnificent forms, Smilde sought to “capture” them in interior spaces.
His precise scientific technique took over two years to perfect. Smilde creates the cloud by saturating the air within the space with a fine mist of water and then introducing a puff of smoke. The water condenses onto the smoke particles just like the droplets of a natural cloud form around tiny ‘condensation nuclei’ in the atmosphere. The clouds lasts a few seconds, just long enough to be photographed, thereby making the momentary everlasting, almost celestial.
When asked about his intention in creating these stunning images, Smilde is quizzically paradoxical. “On the one hand I wanted to create an ominous situation; you could see the cloud as a sign of misfortune. You could also read it as an element out of the Dutch landscape paintings in a physical form in a classical museum hall.” Whatever his intention, his “heavenly” nimbus images have transfixed gallery goers around the world with their other-worldly beauty. Soon, Cielo will do the same, elevating the Toronto skyline - architecturally and artistically - to new heights.
To learn more about Cielo, the Bloor Street residence bringing an uncommon luxury to the Annex - Toronto’s celebrated Arts & Cultural hub – visit cielocondos.com.
PHOTO: MICHAEL HOLLY <br/ >NIMBUS VISUAL, 2013