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Art-Icle: Ruud van Empel

A variety of images from experience
The series entitled "The World" by photographer Ruud van Empel from the Netherlands attempts to connect the real world to a fantastical one. Or maybe more, in attempting as much as possible to remove the border between them, his works of art represent imaginary places and figures.

Ethnic children in a green forest - The details of their bodies and backgrounds are artificially manipulated by Photoshop, but by contrast, their eyes looking intently at the camera are unaffected, giving them a mysterious power to absorb viewers' gaze itself. After graduating from art school, Ruud van Empel worked as a graphic designer and in 1982 he lived in Tokyo for 6 months, where he enjoyed the friendships of Tadanori Yokoo, Shigeo Fukuda, and Yosuke Kawamura. During the stay, he also executed a display at Seibu department store on the introduction of Ikko Tanaka. After returning to his home country, while working in television and film as a production designer, he created his first series "The Office". He used digital images for the series because he was getting frustrated with not being able to create a set like he wanted to. The artist says, "In the series, I developed a balance between a human—sitting behind a desk, looking very official—and a strange world filled with all sorts of objects and materials that would say something about him. It became an interesting game to find objects and atmospheres that would make him serious and ridiculous at the same time." Mr. Empel, who was more drawn to photography that has impersonal characteristics than paintings that clearly show an artist's personal style, has developed his own creation technique. Starting with digital images that he has shot himself, he combines parts of different photographs into a new composition, using all the Photoshop tool to make it look more naturalistic and less like a collage. Compared with the works of Loretta Lux from Germany, who has been already introduced in Japan, his works use a greater number of photographs to create an image of just a single person and his colors are far more vivid. It is a long process to refine the image on the computer − it can take several weeks or even a month to create a single picture. "A photograph captures the fullness of reality, all this information is there from the beginning, and your eyes mix it all together to create the experience of the image. Some people, especially documentary photographers, find it difficult to look at my work, they find it really disturbing to their 'eye.' I think it's because I've added and engineered so many details, altered the original photographic reality in a way that makes it seem strange to them, makes them feel uncomfortable."

He started to work on a motif of children in nature with the "Study in Green". He was motivated by the interest in the relationship with the world around, rather than a political consciousness. Mr. Empel remarks, "Innocence is the element I'm interested in the "The World". Children are not yet very individual, so they can be used to demonstrate the idea without making it too personal or specific. I use nature as the background, because I don't want it to be in a specific place or city. It has to be neutral so the viewer can bring his/her own thoughts to it. So by using children the motif remains more open, more timeless." The various aspects of reality are captured through innocent eyes which have not yet established individuality. When we pick them up one by one to gather the threads of the story, a world of fantasy will start opening up in front of us beyond the border.

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by Ruud van Empel. All rights reserved.