Alexis Christodoulou wasn’t always an artist, though his dreamy 3D renders of imagined modernist interiors belies his brief tenure as one. A former copywriter at an advertising agency, Christodoulou began experimenting with the 3D modelling program SketchUp during a particularly frustrating spell of screenwriting. Five years on, the Cape Town-based artist offers simply this on his Instagram profile: ‘No photographs. Just renders.’
His flawless renders take anywhere between a couple of hours to a few days to create (‘It really depends on how much I’ve had to drink,’ quips the artist, who helps out with his family’s winemaking business by day). And though his works represent fictional places, they borrow details from real-life modernist architecture and design. A recurring motif of circular windows, for example, nod to the brutalist relics dotted around Cape Town, while the swimming pools and bath houses he’s imagined recall the architecture of Soviet sanatoriums, however unintentional.
Archway Pool, by Alexis Christodoulou
While the artist tries to keep his scenes as pared-back as possible, he’s recently begun incorporating furniture. In one frame – this ‘set’ uncharacteristically more dressed than others – Thonet’s iconic ‘S40’ chair by Martin Stam is ‘seen in a rare knockoff “washed canary” at your mom’s friend’s house that’s going through a divorce’. He’s cited David Chipperfield, Le Corbusier, Superstudio, and Aldo Rossi as influences, though notes his work has become more intuitive, ‘creating spaces as if I can see them in front of me before I start’.
Christodoulou’s visual language has evolved – almost unrecognisably so – since he began dabbling in 3D rendering. ‘Because I started right at the beginning, with renders and image making, I’m still exploring both and developing my vocabulary as I go along,’ the self-taught artist explains. ‘I started making images with a lot of obvious humour in them. Now I’m the only one who finds them funny so I’d like to bring the laughs back.’
Wobbly Wall, by Alexis Christodoulou
The stark hyperreality of his scenes are tempered with pastel tones and soft textures, such as cloth draping over a prop or rippling water. ‘[Water] is an extremely pleasing texture to render with all the refraction and caustics,’ he adds. ‘More than that, I think it’s just funny to think about swimming in every scene that I make.’ The artist has also developed a taste for rendering stone aggregates, such as terrazzo, though it’s a skill he says he’s still honing.
With trips to Greece and Florence on the horizon, the artist is always looking forward: ‘I’m already starting to push my images into a different direction again.’ If Instagram is a portal for escapism, then we’ll happily follow Christodoulou down the rabbit hole.