Ruud Van Empel trained in graphic arts and theatre design. When he first discovered photoshop he became obsessed with it. In his own words his ‘brain was just full of images and ideas’. He wanted to explore a unique method of compiling pieces of photographs to create an image. He experimented day and night testing the limits of photoshop. This was back in the early 90‘s when the technology was new and so his first attempts where mainly black and white, but as the technology improved so his imagination took flight, and his theatricality shows through in the vivid colours of the magical realism.
This magical realism depicts the innocent and untainted, but on second glance there is something uneasy about the pictures. What is real, and what isn’t? These extraordinary compositions, mainly of young children set in paradisiacal backgrounds, conjure thoughts of pre-fall paradise but the hyper- reality of it is un- settling, and on closer inspection there are thorns and insects which add impurities to the perfection.
In his series, SUNDAY, the subjects are all in their best clothes, looking perfectly innocent, but it is too perfect, it seems that their innocence is actually trapped by society’s restraints and ideals. Children are born as innocents in a cruel and dangerous world, and his paradise is a wholly imagined one. It’s a purity that is purely digital.
It was during his first international show, World, Moon Venus that Elton John saw his work and bought one. The image of the black girl in the white dress was particularly powerful as the ‘black community in the USA were not used to having a black person depicted in such a positive way in fine art.’ His images seek to represent black children as symbols of purity and innocence rather than as symbols of oppression, poverty and starvation. Elton John has gone on to use more of Van Empel’s work in his Aids Foundation photography Portfolio.
Last year Van Empel released a documentary, ‘Beyond Innocence’ in which he discusses how he is always searching for beauty. The innocence of children is beautiful, the human form is beautiful, and sometimes although all the parts are beautiful when they are put together the result is not. This was something that Van Empel was intrigued by and which he explores continuously. His eye catching and thought provoking pictures encapsulate the uneasy relationship of the natural world with advanced technology.