Installation image, The Uncanny, Adeline de Monseignat and Berndnaut Smilde, Ronchini Gallery, photo Susanne Hakuba

The above is an installation image from "The Uncanny," a two-person show featuring the work of Adeline de Monseignat and Berndnaut Smilde which ran at London's Ronchini Gallery from January 19 - February 16, 2013. James Putnam curated the exhibition. These photos appear courtesy of Ronchini Gallery and Susanne Hakuba.

The following is excerpted from the show's catalogue:

"Clouds are formed naturally by the condensation of millions of water droplets formed by rising warm air, so defy gravity until they fall as rain or snow or evaporate. Visually they assume many forms, but are classified as variations or combinations of Cirrus (curl) Cumulus (heap), Stratus (layer) and Nimbus (rain-cloud). The meditative, sublime quality of dramatic cloud formations has long fascinated artists and philosophers and in religious iconography they are synonymous with the immutable quality of 'higher' truth. According to Smilde, his cloud images were inspired by the thought of walking into a museum hall with just empty walls and nothing to see except for a rain cloud hovering in the room. The quest to achieve this 'vision' led him to experiment with ways of producing a perfect cloud within an interior space. By achieving the right temperature and moisture conditions Smilde is able to create his clouds although he maintains it's not really a high-tech process. He produces them using a smoke machine combined with moisture, which he sprays into the air and carefully regulates the temperature and humidity of the space to produce the correct conditions for the cloud that lasts just long enough to be photographed before it disappears. There is a unique ephemeral aspect to the work where the photograph captures a brief, fleeting moment before the cloud quickly dissipates again as mysteriously as it was formed. This sense of ephemerality with the suggestion that a storm might be brewing charges the works with tension and even a sense of foreboding.

"Smilde tends to favour evocative spaces to stage his cloud works, such as empty churches, galleries and warehouses. The locations are important to the context of the work. Making a cloud in an exhibition space is putting the work also in relation to an art historical tradition. He has also always been fascinated by traditional Dutch seascape paintings with their impressive skies and threatening looking dark clouds. Smilde was particularly inspired by one of these paintings that his grandparents owned and remembered being intrigued by the sheer power of it and that feeling of apprehension of the brooding storm. Although the cloud could be viewed as a symbol of misfortune it could also be read as a fragment from a historical Dutch painting. The Nimbus works present a transitory moment of presence in a distinct location before it falls apart. His choice of dramatic lighting and viewing aspect is crucial to the overall composition of the work and achieving a convincing illusion of the cloud's physicality. In his research on how to make clouds he came across an interesting material called Aerogel, also nicknamed frozen smoke, owing to its translucent nature and the way light scatters in the material. It consists of 99.8% air by volume and is the lightest known solid material and has many unique properties. These include an exceptional ability to capture fast moving dust so it has been used by NASA in their Stardust mission to capture comet samples."

     — James Putnam

Click here to view a video of Smilde creating a cloud.