In Ruth van Beek’s latest book, Eldorado, she collaborated with book designer Willem van Zoetendaal. In the book two viewing experiences are combined and together tell something about Ruth’s way of working. A practice in which everything is always connected and new side paths can bring surprising connections. Besides a selection of new and older collages, the book contains her first encounter with an online archive of historical advertising material from fruit, vegetable and flower growers in the United States. Pages full of small images, showing the screenshots she took as a contact print, the order has not changed. In this way it exposes how she observes and collects, visualizing the eagerness and the absolute pleasure of immersing herself in a newly discovered photographic archive.
Ruth van Beek (b. 1977) uses the established visual codes of photography—a shadow, pedestal, dark backdrop, or gesture—to guide viewers into a belief in the incredible rarity or importance of the shown object, even when that object is unidentifiable. From a growing archive of found photographic material, van Beek arranges images in constantly changing ways. The primary source for her odd and playful collages are specialist books and magazines of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Titles on subjects including the proper tending of bonsai trees, the care of cacti, and the art of Japanese flower arranging—often found at thrift stores across Europe and the United States—provide rich material for her unique pieces. From these odd combinations and decontextualized images van Beek makes her work. By cutting and folding, adding shapes of watercolor-painted paper and forging visual connections between found pictures, the artist makes form, scale and colors reverberate, often to unsettling or comical effect. These overt interventions are never hidden; indeed they are central to the work. Van Beek lives and works in Koog aan de Zaan, in the Netherlands.