From te publication
RUUD VAN EMPEL
By Ron Exley
Dutch artist Ruud van Empel has taken digital manipulation of photography to a new level. His colourful images are synthesized from a myriad of elements, manipulating their fragments and traces rather like an artist uses paint. With digital software he creates complex and exotic images, sometimes spending months working on the synthesis of a particular photo-derived scenario. Van Empel does not pretend to represent the truth or convey reality, but so seamless is his work that the eye is unwittingly coaxed into believing in the reality of a total fantasy world.
Beginning his career in theatre before moving on to graphic design and filmmaking, Van Empel entered the world of photography in the early 1990’s at the commercial end of the spectrum. Initially working in black and white, creating photo-collages of scenes from the natural world, he quickly graduated to colour photography and soon the enhanced opportunities offered by digital manipulation presented him with a whole new palette of possebilities. Since the mid-1990’s he has devoted all his time to art photography. When Van Empel exhibited his work at a gallery in’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, he showed a series of images depicting blonde, blue eyed girls and was both shocked and dismayed when he was labelled a racist and a Nazi for displaying images solely of white girls. This prompted his most distinctive series of images. In a riposte to his critics, he created Moon, World, Venus, depicting the innocence of childhood througha series of images mostly of black children. These portraits of children surrounded by lush tropical vegetation are as contrived as the famousjungle paintings of Henri Rousseau, who derived his images from plants sketched in the tropical House of the Jardin des Plantes, Paris. His work methods are complex but, typically, Van Empel will photograph four or five agency models in his studio, and then take a series of detailed shots of leaves, flowers, plants and insects. After collecting hundreds of images, he carefully selects those images that can best achieve the required effect. These artificial paradises of Van Empel’s appeal, of cource, to our romatic sentiments and are a hair’s breadth from outright kitsch, executed with such skill and aesthetic sensebility that the visual impact eclipses the satirical message. It is this threshold between the original and the rhetorical that Van Empel adroitly navigates in the creation of his ultimately seductive images.