Thursday, August 16, 2012

Entranced and enchanted

I am utterly entranced and enchanted by the surreal works of Dutch photographic artist Ruud van Empel, especially the green one shown above. His theatrical portraits of innocent children, eyes transfixed on you the viewer, are staged vignettes set in dreamy, lush forests and lagoons.This must be what it's like to walk into a Henri Rousseau painting! Van Empel’s painterly method is a complex process of digital manipulation. He photographs the models in his studio, separately photographs leaves, flowers, plants and animals, and even separately photographs clothing on a tailor's dummy. Then, through endless hours of work and the using Adobe Photoshop as a tool, he creates these ethereal masterpieces that are ultimately a modern day kind of collage. When I first saw these works I wondered, were they paintings? Photographs? They are certainly beautiful! Scroll down to see more of his work below.

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“The fact that many of the children in his compositions have a dark skin is a facet that cannot remain without comment. Although it is self-evident that a child’s skin colour is not important, the iconography of the innocent child was traditionally represented by ‘white’ children. The earliest examples of this date from the early seventeenth century. These are portraits in which children are captured in an idealized, pastoral setting. It is a genre to which the children’s portraits of the German artist Otto Dix, a source of inspiration to van Empel, refer. In deviating from the standard iconography by giving the child a dark skin, Van Empel inadvertently assumes a political stance. After all, this child is still the focus of discrimination and its innocence is not recognized by everyone as being self-evident.”
                 —Art historian Jan Baptist Bedaux 

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