Berndnaut Smilde – Nimbus

Berndnaut Smilde’s work is inspired by tensions intrinsic to the spaces we routinely traverse and inhabit. By synthesizing of photography, installation and performance, Smilde creates otherworldly scenes within seemingly nondescript places. His work evokes a state of being somewhere between temporariness and permanence; between external and internal. Sometimes dark, often humorous but always ethereal, Smilde’s vision lends a sense of beautiful absurdity to the everyday.

The clouds in his Nimbus series create a collision between the original state of the space and its actual function. Smilde makes people think about the possibilities behind every space, because often we just think of museums as being museums, offices as being offices, etc. By creating these clouds he lets the viewer’s imagination run wild.

The works presents a transitory moment of presence in a specific location. The clouds can be interpreted as a sign of loss or becoming, or just as a fragment from a classical painting. People have always had a strong metaphysical connection to clouds and through time have projected many ideas on them.
Smilde is interested in the temporary aspect of the work. After few seconds it falls apart again. “I use a fog machine to spray moisture through the air. It helps if the space is really cold so the cloud stays in shape for much longer. Naturally it would be easier to just use Photoshop, but I think it’s paramount that my work is physically present. I think the light and shapes being tangible really transforms the meaning of the photographs.”


The artist Berndnaut Smilde was born in 1978 in Groningen, The Netherlands. He currently lives and works in Amsterdam. Smilde’s work consists of installations, sculptures and photos. Using his daily surroundings and spaces as inspiration, Smilde is interested in the temporal nature of construction and deconstruction. His work refers to both the physical state of a building and a moment of revelation that depicts either hope or fragility. His works question: inside and outside, temporality, size, the function of materials and architectural elements.

Smilde holds an MA from the Frank Mohr Institute, Groningen. Awards include a start stipend from The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture. He was a resident artist at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 2008, and Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Colorado in 2015. Smilde’s work resides in both the Saatchi and the Smithsonian collections among others.