Innocence Exoticized

The idea of exoticising the unknown is something we are probably all guilty of, like when we see something or someone that is foreign to us.  In the process of romanticizing the unknown, our object of desire becomes a perfection and is utterly flawless to us.  This, as I have learned from experience is dangerously beguiling because there is the inevitable disappointment of reality.  Nonetheless, I find myself falling in love time after time and willingly succumbing to its fictional romance that is transpired solely based on the exterior appearance of perfection. Interestingly, here artist Ruud van Empel has chosen to present perfect portraits of beautiful children but also to reveal the fiction underneath the seemingly perfectly happy and wondrous world of childhood fantasies.

In this piece, we see a lake that is abundant in colorful wild plants filled with cute little creatures such goldfish, dragonfly, and even a pretty white swan obliviously swimming about. Inevitably, it is easy to assume this to be a happy image of a childhood fantasy almost fairy tale like. However, upon another look, the child does not carry on her face any kind of happy expression, but one that seems to be staring sternly right back at the spectator. The placement of her head looks as if artificially placed in against all the background, it intrinsically suggests to me that this is an image of pure fiction. Right below, this is another image that presents the perfect and precocious beauty of innocent children. In this perfect arrangement, nothing is out of place however the wry stares of these children give me a feeling that this exterior appearance of composure in harmony is only a pose.
From what I read, Ruud van Empel digitally manipulates all his images hence they are more like photo-collages and the perfection in hyper-reality is purely intentional, if not purely fictional.  What I find appealing about his work is this eeriness you get from looking at these seemingly harmless and innocent children.  On a more personal note, they resonate specially well with me is perhaps because I did not experience the most perfect and happy childhood.  However, nothing has never stopped me from keeping on fantasizing a hidden wonderland (whether beautiful or mysterious) in which I could remain a curious little girl.  At the same time, perhaps feeling a little bit lost, like this little girl in the forest.  Please go to Stux by May 14 if you wish to see these works. 


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