Artist Thomas Ruff’s multi-faceted practice mines the ever-changing possibilities of photography, investigating visual and cultural phenomena to address the ways in which technology influences our seeing. It manifests across a wide range of subjects and methods ranging from classical portrait photography to algorithmically generated digital images. For the artist’s most recent show, on view this winter at Sprüth Magers in Berlin, the artist continues this practice, taking on a series of wall-tapestries as a mode for the continued exploration of image-making and its connections to material.
The show, titled d.o.pe (an allusion to Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, a 1954 essay describing the British philosopher’s experiments with mind-altering drugs), presents a series of tapestries bearing fractal patterns that reflect Ruff’s long-standing interest in the beauty and visualization of complex mathematical phenomena. In the early 2000s, Ruff first turned his attention to the visualized geometric structures, for which the mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot coined the word ‘fractal‘ in 1975. Fractal patterns exhibit a high degree of self-similarity, which is to say that magnifying any part of the original shape shows the same shape repeated over and over again.
Ruff’s initial attempts at fractal imagery were unsuccessful, as the computer programs available at the time lacked the necessary precision. He returned to the idea of fractals in 2022, after coming across software that could be used to create and manipulate psychedelic imitations of nature with the degree of complexity he was looking The result here are a series of hyper-loaded images, landscapes in swirling mathematical patterns that seem to walk a fine line between graphical experiments and high-density landscapes that make interesting connections to the images of painter J.M.W. Turner and the detailed paintings of Renaissance masters.
Translated here into tapestries, a second degree of material innovation takes hold as well, with the artist’s works given an additional degree of texture and grain. These images – visual phenomena that exist outside the realm of rational imagination but are nevertheless perceived as real – resonate with Ruff as they point to an expanded concept of perception.
The show closes January 31st.
– D. Creahan
Thomas Ruff at Sprüth Magers [Exhibition Site]