The photographic images of Dutch artist Ruud van Empel (Breda, The Netherlands, 1958) – digital collages – made from fragments of hundreds of his own photographs, strive for content aligned to natural reality though they carry a certain level of surrealism. The artificiality is visible but the final image is a convincing, autonomous reality.
Van Empel’s subjects seem to have time to stand and stare: time to evaluate, to be part of nature, to watch their dreams. There is an inherent beauty, tranquility, nature and pureness. The softness of his tone, though, in no way diminishes the sharpness of his work. There is a sort of attendant pressure: an invisible complication: something that looms over these idyllic scenes.
In a way his skills in contemporary digital techniques stems from a long tradition of artists who are interested more generally in photography as an art form – an idea that originates from the days of the Cubists; the collages of Kurt Schwitters; the photomontages of Man Ray. It may be argued that this lineage dates even further back to the days of the nineteenth century when collaging – the combining of multiple images to form a new whole – was born, not only out of technical necessity but also from an artistic desire or need.
What distinguishes Van Empel from his predecessors is that which he creates with his photographic “collage-technique.” Utilizing his fixed artistic canon of a relative absence of perspective, his use of a certain “flatness” of image brings about images which are both beautiful and strong. His real-life-like children often appear in the same way that their paradisiacal emerald surroundings seem disturbed and interrupted; the closer you look, the more, the dominant, harsher side of reality intrudes on the idyll. This is something which has a great impact on what at first glance appears to be just a pretty picture. It is not. If you get it, you notice Van Empel’s underlying concept of genuine concern on how unsettling reality can be.
Ruud van Empel (Breda, The Netherlands, 1958) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Sint Joost, Breda from 1976-1981 and was awarded the St. Joost prize in 1981. His first retrospective with over 80 works opened in 2011 in the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands. The exhibition travelled to the MoPA-Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego in 2012 and to the photography museum Fotografiska, Stockholm, Sweden and the Fotomuseum Antwerpen (FoMu), in Belgium in 2013. Among some of his other solo exhibitions are ‘World and other series’, Museum het Valkhof, Nijmegen, The Netherlands (2007); Kunstverein Talstrasse E.V., Halle, Germany (2008); the CB Collection Roppongi Noa, Tokyo, Japan (2008); ‘Souvenir’, Flatland Paris, Paris, France; ‘spfw-Sao Paulo Fashion Week, The year of Holland in brazil’, Fundacao Bienal-Parque do ibirapuera-portao-3, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2011).
Group shows include the CB Collection Roppongi, Tokyo (solo); Picturing Eden, MoPA-Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; Dangerous Beauty, Chelsea Art Museum, New York; An Instinctive Eye, Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev and Picturing Eden, George Eastman House Rochester, New York.
In 2021 Van Empel is invited by the Van Gogh House to show his interpretation and impression of Vincent van Gogh portraits and landscapes, to be exhibited at the Van Gogh House in Zundert. The Van Gogh works will be available through the gallery from August 14th, coinciding with the opening of the exhibition at the Van Gogh House. In 2021 Ruud van Empel’s work is also part of a group show of the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Breda.
His work appears in the permanent collections of the French National Foundation for Modern Art (Paris), Museum of photographic Arts (San Diego), Generali Foundation (Vienna), Tel Aviv Museum of Art, CB Collection (Tokyo), the Sir Elton John Collection, Atlanta, U.S.A, George Eastman House, Rochester NY, USA and in the Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands.