Noticing that the endless stream of images on the internet meant that the distinctions between real and virtual, and image and information, were becoming less clear, Ruff went about investigating this visual 'nothingness' using digital manipulation. These virtual oil slicks are composed of layers of cartoons, producing composites devoid of meaning and leaving the viewer unsure what is real and what is an electronically transmitted signal or virtual stimuli.
About Thomas Ruff
Thomas Ruff uses technological advancements to realize new visual possibilities of photography and question its artistic qualities. “I don’t believe in the psychologizing portrait photography that my colleagues do, trying to capture the character with a lot of light and shade,” he says. “That’s absolutely suspect to me. I can only show the surface. Whatever goes beyond that is more or less chance.” In the manner of the typologies and straight photography espoused by his teachers Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ruff’s best-known series is “Portraits” (1981-85), 60 frontal, identically framed photographs of expressionless men and women blown up to a monumental size. Authenticity and appropriation are of recurring interest to Ruff—he further explored these ideas in “Nudes” (2003), a photographic collection of distorted and enlarged thumbnails of pornographic photographs taken from the internet, and has produced series based on 3-D mathematical renderings, archival images of war and the night sky, and the architecture of Mies van der Rohe.
German, b. 1958, Zell am Harmersbach, Germany, based in Düsseldorf, Germany