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This artist creates the dreamiest places you wish were real

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A chat with Cape Town artist Alexis Christodoulou

rendering of playground pool All images courtesy Alexis Christodoulou

One of our favorite Instagram discoveries lately is the work of Cape Town-based artist Alexis Christodoulou. Delicious pinks, blues, and yellows, mixed with ever-satisfying tiles, arches, and pools—one just can’t help but swoon and surrender to wanderlust at the ultra-dreamy spaces overflowing his feed.

But when you go look for the geotag or tap into the comments to see where you can visit such a magical place, you might be a bit disappointed to realize that everything looks so dreamy for a reason. Indeed, all of Christodoulou’s creations are completely digital.

A winemaker by day and architect of escapist fantasies whenever else he finds time, Christodoulou has been posting these impressive digital renderings regularly for the past year as a kind of self-imposed creative challenge. And the result is a non-stop visual feast for some 13,400 followers and counting.

Take a quick peek at his page and you’ll notice that every piece is a celebration of light, space, and material—in other words, architecture. So it’s no surprise that Christodoulou turns to architectural precedents to inform his creations. Below, we interviewed the artist via email to learn more about his inspirations and process; some questions and responses have been edited for clarity. Do enjoy a selection of his work along the way.

Curbed: We’ve read that your work is influenced by architecture, especially modernist architecture. Can you name some specific examples?

Alexis Christodoulou: Aldo Rossi, David Chipperfield, Ricardo Bofill, Superstudio, Le Corbusier. I don’t think they’ve inspired any particular works but you’ll definitely see their influence in my work. Those are just a few names. I usually spend hours researching different architects almost daily.

Where else do you find inspiration? Are the inspirations always clean, modern, and minimalist already or do you have to strip away things in the process?

I look at buildings in Cape Town (where I live) quite a lot and always take something home with me from a walk. We have quite a bit of old Brutalist architecture littered around the city with big concrete facades and delicious monsters hanging off overhangs.

I work quite intuitively now. I usually start very very plain and simple and have to add things in order to make the scenes a bit more alive. Sometimes I want to leave the scenes completely bare but I’m not sure people would respond too well to that.

We talk a lot these days about things being “Instagrammable”—meaning the design or image would fit right in with aesthetic trends seen all over Instagram. Do you think your works follow these trends or do you ever think about actually making them less like other interiors and spaces you see on Instagram?

In the beginning I think I aimed at making stuff closer to what other people are making on Instagram but everyone has their own style so I just kind of pushed mine to be unique. I’m still pushing it to be different now because I’m not 100 percent where I want to be. I have pages and pages of references where I want to end up and when I get there I’ll probably change my mind and head in another direction. Keeps it interesting.

Light is very important in your work. Are there lighting conditions in your “spaces” that you can only create digitally and are rare in real life?

Well, technically yes, because sometimes I use 2 or 3 daylight sources but real light is very very complex. It bounces and reflects/refracts off everything around us and creates “unnatural” versions of itself everywhere. It’s one of the most difficult things to understand I think. Sometimes in a render something will look unnatural and then I’ll step away and come back and I won’t see it anymore. I cheat with the water quite a lot though. Like sometimes it’s way more reflective than it should be.

You started doing these renderings regularly about a year ago and vowed to do it for a whole year. Now that year is up, what’s next? Where do you go from here?

Yes, the year is now finally up but I’ve realized that doing the renderings regularly and discovering new processes and techniques is what keeps it fun so I think I’ll carry on, just maybe not so intensely as I have too much work to finish in between.

Have these renderings been shown elsewhere besides Instagram and the Internet?

I had a small exhibition last year. I’ve done a few images recently for some magazines which we should see in the near future.

What are the works of architecture you want to see the most in person? Are there also buildings or places that you really want to use as inspiration for new renderings?

I think if there’s a building I want to use as inspiration, I’ll just find an image of it (especially if it’s somewhere far away). Obviously I’d like to visit some of those when I travel. I’d really like to take a closer look at some of Scott Burton’s artworks, Donald Judd’s works in Marfa.

I’m traveling to Greece later in the year, as well as Florence, the latter being a trip to re-visualize the city as part of a residency in the city. I think I’ll definitely use the Greece trip as inspiration as well, as I am of Greek heritage and the Cyclades architecture has always been something I would like to represent more in my images.

How long does each image take to make? When do you know it’s done?

They take me between a day and a week. Knowing when an image is done is very difficult. Sometimes you just have to stop and post it so you can’t fiddle anymore. Then you can look back and see what you should have completed and you work on that in the next image. I try not to be too precious.

Are you still working at the winery for your day job?

I sure am. Someone’s gotta make the wine for the artists to drink!