ruud van empel wonder


21.2 – 18.3 2017

Ruud van Empel:Portraits

3–5 Swallow St

Ruud van Empel:Portraits

21.02 – 18.03.2017



Monday to Saturday

10:00 am – 5:30 pm


3–5 Swallow St

The gallery is pleased to stage the first exhibition devoted entirely to the portraiture of the pioneering Dutch photographer Ruud van Empel. The exhibition includes 21 works, including 12 from the photographer’s latest series, Mood, which has never been shown in the UK before.

Ruud van Empel’s distinctive style has evolved through an ongoing exploration of the tension between straight photography and digital technology. His images are digitally constructed from a synthesis of hundreds of diverse fragments taken from his own photographs. He digitally dissects and reconstructs images to create his works, as eyes, noses and lips are collaged together to create brand new faces. Ruud van Empel skilfully blends the techniques of collage, painting and photography, forcing the viewer to question their own conceptions of the constructed, and the “real”.

Ruud van Empel

B. The Netherlands 1958

B. The Netherlands 1958


Ruud van Empel’s pioneering techniques have completely changed the face of digital photography. Using a vast library of digital body parts, fabrics and foliage, van Empel creates dream-like photographic utopias, where nothing is exactly as it seems. 

Prompted by a desire for a more minimalist aesthetic, at the turn of the century van Empel began experimenting with Photoshop. Each of his figures is a hybrid, resulting from his painstaking synthesis of hundreds of diverse fragments taken from his own photography: eyes, noses and lips are collaged together to create the entirely new human forms that inhabit his images. The process is painstaking, as a single work can take up to three months to complete. The results are often an uncanny synthesis of the alluring and the unsettling. His methods engage with questions of identity, truth and artificiality in an age where digital simulation is ubiquitous. 

Ruud van Empel was born in Breda, The Netherlands, in 1958. Van Empel graduated with a degree in graphic design from the Academie St. Joost. Ruud van Empel’s work has been exhibited extensively: his work is held in the collections of several major galleries and museums throughout the world, including MoPA Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, the Rijks Museum, Amsterdam and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel. He has also been the recipient of numerous awards including the Municipality of Breda Oeuvre Prize in 2013 and the Artist of the Year Award from American Friends of Museum, New York in 2017. 

The artist lives and works in Amsterdam.

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