Ruth van Beek, Untitled (Figure 46), 2020, The Ravestijn Gallery.
The Ravestijn Gallery in Amsterdam has programmed a solo exhibition with work by Dutch artist Ruth van Beek. It will be on show between 21 November and 16 January. Van Beek doesn’t only resists the traditional rules and visual codes within photography, but works entirely from her own paradigm. For her collages, Ruth van Beek uses photo books, European and American magazines from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and even user manuals. She finds many of these objects in obscure thrift stores. These images, taken out of context, often enter into a mutual dialogue. Van Beek proposes to reveal a new and underlying, and somewhat surreal universe. Particularly in her newer work, she adds large, organically shaped bits of colour, in soft watercolours.
In this exhibition, dolls take center stage — and in particular the inexplicable emotional bond that we can feel in regards to objects. Dolls are often the first objects we felt emotions for as children, despite the fact that our brain can often estimate exactly how they are put together. And that contrast is precisely what intrigues Van Beek. What do we need as a viewer to be able to feel something, to experience something? Is the suggestion of a body and one or two arms enough? Human skin tones? From what point is our imagination set in motion? Van Beek: “I think my work makes the viewer uncomfortable because I turn objects into characters and abstract shapes into living beings.” Yet her interventions are always visible, never hidden.
Ruth van Beek, Untitled (Figure 65), 2020, The Ravestijn Gallery.
Her visual language, the unexpected combinations and free associations bear witness to a great imagination - also in the viewer - and provide food for thought. Van Beek: “I’m interested in how the viewer animates them with their gaze. They fill in the missing pieces by starting to relate to them. I like that you can see both the simplicity of the construction, and at the same time have very strong feelings towards the figure, as if it were a living being.”
Repetition, action and coincidence play an important role in this, and Van Beek works in a very physical way: she folds, cuts, contrasts, adds pieces of painted paper, rearranges and manipulates them. Small details are visible behind large areas of colour, other details are carefully hidden. But this is not preceded by a detailed plan, she mainly works intuitively. As a viewer, it makes you curious, might you be able to look very carefully behind that piece of..? But in the end: isn't your imagination much more interesting?
Ruth van Beek, Untitled (Figure 44), 2019, The Ravestijn Gallery.
Van Beek holds a master's degree in photography from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and her work has been exhibited worldwide. Her collages have been featured in Foam Magazine, Time Magazine, The British Journal of Photography, The Aperture Photobook Review, the Financial Times and The New York Times. She has also worked with fashion brands including Marni.
The exhibition The Nursery will be on view at The Ravestijn Gallery until January 16. The artist will be present during the opening weekend.