Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Ruud Van Empel - Photoworks 1995 - 2010

Ruud Van Empel is a photographer that works exclusively with Photo montage. His compositions are constructed from all sorts of items that have been isolated, photographed, perfected, and finally constructed into a themed image. His earlier works such as 'The Office' series portrayed people sitting behind their desks, surrounded by over sized accouterments of their trade. The series depicts groupings such as a photographer with a collection of flash bulb reflector dishes, or a haberdasher, with fabric templates and buttons on the walls.

There is an orderliness and neatness to the compositions, A theme that has progressed into other works.

'Study for Women' is a collection where the subjects begin to look strange. This is because not only the objects are montages but the people too. Van Empel has photographed his models in the studio -  taking an arm, a leg, the eyes, nose, from different subjects. Van Empel uses extensive Photoshop techniques to perfect the look of his subjects. The women appear to be posed and look vulnerable. There is an air of menace. They look directly into the (non-existent) lens as if awaiting an instruction from a fashion shoot photographer. They remind me of video game characters - empty and compliant. There is also a Shermanesque quality to them. These are types - in different clothes, settings, scenarios.

The strangeness continues in 'Study in Green.' This time the scenes are of a woodland setting thick with trees and dark shadows - all constructed from separate elements. The subjects are children with disturbing, mask-like, porcelain faces. According to The Guardian revue of the work. The children are 'Dressed in Dutch middle-class attire from the 1960s'. They look vulnerable in settings that are highly atmospheric with a dreamlike density to the images.

In the series, 'World/Moon' I am reminded of the fantastic junglescapes of the painter Henri Rousseau. Black children dressed in immaculate formal attire stand amongst exotic palms, trees, or are half submerged in lily-pad covered ponds. Most of the images are large and appear to bonded to some sort of acrylic material that gives them a luxurious gloss effect.

 'A perfect tropical paradise in the style of magic realism,' states the Guardian. And continues the revue with the author's words:

'To make something with beauty. Beauty has been taboo in art for such a long time.'

When I read this comment it was very interesting to me. It chimes with something photographers Tom Hunter and Jason Evans have said at talks I've attended recently. Is there a growing backlash developing against the more mundane works of art that have made up the bulk of conceptual art until now?

In the interview Van Empel goes on to say:

'Children are born innocent into a cruel and dangerous world. I wanted to do something with that idea. But, as an effect of the photo montage technique it ended up looking strange and frightening. I like this and decided to explore it further'.

I find my interest in constructing my own images has been growing for some time now. I've tried a number of ways of going about this, using real-life models and props, constructing sets at home, etc. My last piece of work on assignment 5 has drawn its influence partly from the photo montage technique of Van Empel. Although I've used the whole of the model in my work! I've pasted him into a number of different scenes and constructed bits of interiors or added birds to certain images using Photoshop.

I like the idea of putting together scenes that have popped into my head or from long ago memories that have significant meaning to me. Whether that will be by constructing sets, Photoshop montage or even going as far as making small scale models, like the 'Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,' by Corinne May Botz - I don't know. I am still trying to work out my thoughts on this.

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