Ruth van Beek’s work originates in her ever-growing archive. The images, mainly from old photo books, are her tools, source material and context. Van Beek physically intervenes within the pictures. By folding, cutting, or adding pieces of painted paper, she rearranges and manipulates the image until her interventions reveal the universe that lay within them. Merely by suggestion, van Beek triggers the imagination, and therefore the discomfort, of the viewer: passive human hands are animated, objects turn into characters, and abstract shapes come to life. The original image may have been taken out of context, but the familiar imagery – the formal photography of an instruction book, a clearly displayed object, or a staged action – remains recognizable, and thus speaks to our collective memory. Contrasting elements engage in conversation in van Beek’s work: the dead past coming to life; the literal and the abstract; displaying and concealing expressively; both the limitation and the endless possibility of an archive. Hereby, van Beek joins a new generation of artists that, by finding restriction in closed archives, offer a counterweight to the limitless availability of information. The constant organization of the world around her even gets a literal representation in van Beek’s work: the rearranging hands of instruction books appear and reappear, like a self-portrait of the artist as a creator.
The Situation Room
The images included in Ruth van Beek’s archive are constantly engaging in conversation. Repetition, rhyme, coincidences and parallels form the alphabet of an obscure language. Van Beek rearranges the pictures to create brand new images, but emphasizes the conversations between them. The same goes for van Beek’s upcoming solo exhibition at The Ravestijn Gallery, in which the grotesque figures that populate “the situation room” converse with one another. They are part of a scene, react to the room as if they were a Greek chorus, or confront the viewer directly. Van Beek subtlety transforms the exhibition space into an exuberant and ominous carnival. Abstract shapes are brought to life and make for a cast of exaggerated characters, turning the entire room into a masquerade.