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The Ravestijn Gallery presents the exhibition The Nursery, an exhibition with new works by Ruth van Beek. In 2018, van Beek published How To Do The Flowers, an absurdist manual of strange instructions and unfinished collages in which the building of a body was a persistent thought. Since then, the physicality and animation of lifeless matter has played an increasingly important role in her work. Using How To Do The Flowers as a guide, The Nursery continues this fascination with the transformation of forms into bodies and the possibilities of photographs as both representations and objects.

For most of us, dolls are emblems of the inexplicable affection we have for objects. They, along with other childhood toys, are amongst the first objects we feel emotion for. Yet for all the memories attached to caring for and playing with dolls, they cannot escape their existence as objects. We can always see their construction – see their joins and touch their plastic skin. But that doesn’t stop us from feeling; seeing them as fertile ground for our imagination. This dichotomy, between object and emotion, between the lifeless essence of a doll and its ability to kindle emotion is the root of van Beek’s intrigue.

These new collages are van Beek’s dolls of the present – tenderly played with as her imagination runs wild.

Exercising her distinctive approach, van Beek has then physically intruded into the found images from her archive. Painted pieces of card poke, manipulate and conceal. Toes and fingers peek around corners, colours collide, abstract forms emerge and overflow, fragments are obscured whilst others are made clear, and each collage becomes a new object, stuck somewhere between reality and fantasy. Her interventions, however, are unplanned. They are a fluid conversation between her and the original photographs. Just like talking to dolls is commonplace, so too is van Beek’s dialogue with her collages. And just like dolls are invitations to care for something, so too are van Beek’s collages for her. These new collages are van Beek’s dolls of the present – tenderly played with as her imagination runs wild.

Ruth van Beek’s work has been shown internationally at the likes of FOMU (BE); ETAL Gallery, (US); The Ravestijn Gallery (NL); Les Rencontres d’Arles (FR); Flowers Gallery (UK) and Fraenkel Gallery (US) amongst others. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Centrefold Magazine, Foam Magazine, IMA Magazine, The British Journal of Photography, The Aperture Photobook Review, Financial Times, Elephant Magazine and The New York Times. She has published numerous artist books including The Arrangement (2013) which was shortlisted for the Aperture Photobook of the Year Award in 2014 and How To Do The Flowers (2018), copublished by Art Paper Editions (BE) and Dashwood Books (US) to widespread acclaim.

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