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02.11 -
Galerie Fontana
The Netherlands
Solo exhibition "Making Nature" Curated by Joris Montens & Stefan Heinis

Galerie Fontana is pleased to present Making Nature, the first solo show of Dutch conceptual photographer Ruud van Empel (1958) at the gallery. Photographic assemblages lean into the notion of authorship and realism, as the artist explores a mastery of the ecological space through digital and analogue manipulation. Considering man’s control over the natural realm, for Ruud this is a meticulous and labour-intensive practice wherein concept meets photomontage in order to inspire a naturo-realist feel.

This exhibition will be an overview of the artist's work, spanning the last ten years, and will include his latest series, titled Pollution (2021), as well as the unveiling of a brand-new work by the artist namely; Floresta #10 (2023). Lush detailing, created by the artist, draws the viewer into vast imagined landscapes. However, there is a simultaneous darkness in the soft aesthetics of Pollution (2021). Van Empel successfully captures our attention in an almost poetic display of the dark underbelly that exists as the result of our interference with ecology – the soft gemstones of an oil spill alludes to a sort of pseudo-environment which unfolds before the viewer. For the artist, these more recent works are an experimentation in achieving Expressionism within photography, Willem de Kooning is an aesthetic inspiration in terms of abstraction and composition. 

In recent years Van Empel's work has gradually migrated from portraits to nature, and then on to more abstract work, with painting as an important stimulus. Historical references play a key role in van Empel’s pieces, intertwined with visual norms borrowed from Western portraiture thereby creating an almost Surrealist environment in which to examine the proposed subjects. This is illustrated in the series Generation (2010), in which the artist proposes a scene reminiscent of a 1960s school - in which students are conducting their ‘class photograph’.

Selecting examples from a plethora of images amassed by the artist, van Empel is a purist in his application of photomontage, considering that his layering and combining of images does not subscribe to any morphing techniques. Subtle image manipulations are applied to subjects, which results in a great psychological effect, thus showing an incredible imagination in his detail-orientated masterpieces. Not only are the pieces impressive in their attributes but one also cannot disregard the intensity of the colour. His newest works are produced on archival pigment print, some mounted on dibond, presenting naked colours in all of their vibrance. We invite you to consider the vast and diverse skillset illustrated by Ruud van Empel in his expansion of the medium of photography, over the last ten years.  

About the artist

Having studied at the Sint Joost Academy of Visual Arts in Breda and graduated with honours in 1981, the artist has been experimenting with creating photographic arrangements, grouping together photos and images in innovative ways. An early career in graphic design as well as designing for theater productions and television has informed his approach to photography, which is greatly focused on technology’s influence on the modern world.

He is the recipient of many awards, including the St. Joost Prize (1981), Charlotte Köhlerprize (1993), H.N. Werkmanprize (2001) and Municipality of Breda Oeuvre-prize (2013). Ruud van Empel has had works appear in museums, galleries, and collections throughout the Netherlands and abroad, including Sir Elton John Photography Collection, London, Arne Zimmerman Collection, the Rijksmuseum Collection, Amsterdam, the Museum Voorlinden Collection, Wassenaar, the Joods Historisch Museum Collection, Amsterdam, among others.