Intellectually, I understand that Cornelius Dämmrich's works are two dimensional. But the first time I saw the German digital artist's work on Reddit, I was convinced that we had achieved headset-free VR. It's not just Dämmrich's absolute mastery of rendering software that tricks the mind into perceiving 3D. It's his use of classic artistic principles like foreshortening, textured elements, and photorealistic lighting that made me momentarily believe his works came to life.
With jaw-dropping hyperrealism and intricate post-apocalyptic imagery, Dämmrich's artwork encourages viewers to zoom in and out of his high-definition pieces to admire his craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Dämmrich's most recent high-res composition, "6088AD," is absolutely breaktaking. The piece features an astronaut, a sitting woman, and a robot with a gun. On Reddit, many have pointed out hidden words and images, such as "Refugees are welcome, no astronauts."
In an email, Dämmrich told me these hidden messages are part of the fun.
"There is always something hiding somewhere," he said. "It's part of the fun to play 'Where's Waldo' with people on the internet and usually there is also stuff nobody can see or understand."
To create his art, Dämmrich used the rendering application Cinema 4D R18. For the 3D effect, the program utilizes "pathtracing," a method of rendering light true-to-life by collecting data from objects in the scene, shedding artificial "light sources" on them, and combining them to form a whole.
Even more impressive, somehow, is Dämmrich's fascinating walkthrough videos of his work, which chronicle his detailed artistic process.
Though making "6088AD" looks effortless, creating these immersive environments are a herculean effort for both the artist and his equipment. The prequel to this work, "52HZ," completed in 2016, took over 50 hours to render to create the 8000 x 4800-pixel shot.
"You can build everything the laws of physics allow, or even go beyond that," Dämmrich explained. "Art changed when painters were confronted with the invention of photography and now we―the artists―are confronted with automation of processes and procedural workflows. People nowadays build worlds by teaching a computer and a piece of software some basic rules, things that no human could possibly do by hand nor alone. And it evolves and becomes faster every year."
Dämmrich often draws from TV and film to create his works. His piece "HAZE" is a recreation of a shot from the 2009 movie Enter the Void, and, according to his website, "Mercury" was inspired by "every science fiction movie I love."
Beyond the fiction world, Dämmrich's art has been promoted NASA. In 2015, he worked with NASA and JPL to create "Hitchhiker ," a rendering of a spacecraft that can be tethered to an asteroid to explore deep space. "Hitchhiker" served as a visual aid for an actual concept, which was presented at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts symposium the same year.
For anyone daring to create their own 3D rendered cyberpunk environments, the artist has made a step-by-step tutorial that can be purchased on Gumroad. Just don't expect the skills to come easy—"6088AD" took Dämmrich two-and-a-half months to complete.