Recently, a startling collection of work was uploaded to one small seed’s community network site. We, in the one small seed office, were stunned by the portfolio’s technical wizardry and its delicate, otherworldly compositions. Jessica Manim investigated the digital dreams and found Rudi Silbermann, a thoroughbred South African talent.

Magical and breathtaking, Rudi’s talent is the kind you’d expect to see grown on international soil. But, raised at the mouth of the Breede River, he’s testament to the rapidly growing South African digital art scene. He states he’s always had a fervent interest in the power of visual constructions and that as a child he was deeply intrigued by the layout of magazines. This obsession with design led him to study photolithography, after which he worked in the printing industry for six years. It was during this time that Rudi met an architect who introduced him to the craft of making artistic impressions for architectural projects. Instantly attracted to the vocation, he began dabbling in Photoshop. It wasn’t long before he discovered 3D modelling and became hooked on developing digital masterpieces.

Working primarily in Photoshop and Maxon Cinema 4D, Rudi combines photographs with 3D-modelled elements to build dreamy landscapes that whisper fantastical stories and whimsical dreams. Each piece carefully balances the delicate and the dark, contrasting soft lighting with sombre, warm colours. From abandoned houses set against barren landscapes to exquisite women wrapped in mist, his works are at once foreign and yet familiar, leaving an open doorway through which to discover meaning. “The key thing I try to create is a space where the viewer can develop their own story about what they see,” explains Rudi. “My images are meant to invoke emotion and thought.

Sometimes the things we dream do feel real, and this is what the artworks are about.

Like illustrations of childhood fairytales or snapshots from a lucid dream, Rudi’s images instantly call up a narrative in one’s mind. Whether one views each piece in isolation or as a series of related artworks, they’re definitely more than just ‘pretty pictures’. There’s a sense that each element he includes is vital to the final product, although he does not always choose them consciously. From cast aside masks to distant buildings, each part seems to bring a vital sense of balance and power to the overall composition. He often feels that they are all predetermined, as ideas will often pop wholly formed into his mind.

Sometimes I feel that the images I make are just lying there, waiting to be created,

he says. “It’s like they were just meant to be.”

Recently, Rudi has been working in conjunction with Ian Mitchinson, a Capetonian fine art photographer, on The Cherish Series. The collaboration pushes the limits of portrait photography, which is often conventionally stifling. The idea is to take that which is most dear to the subject and transform it from the expected to the fantastical, imbuing it with tangible emotional tones. From wedding dresses to hobbies and the jovial to the serious, the collection celebrates life’s revered moments. And while Rudi and Ian cherish the moments of others, this is clearly one South African talent who’s worthy of being cherished himself.

WORDS: Jessica Manim

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