The weird thing about this exhibition is that I felt both intrigued and distanced as I was looking at it. And I really did look and try to become engaged, and the more I looked the more it intrigued me, well sort of.
I wanted to look at these huge and beautifully produced photographs before I read the blurb - the title MA.R.S was the only thing I had to go on, which obviously relates to the planet Mars in someway and as soon as you see the photos they are all pictures of what appear to be moon like landscapes - and super close up pics of a planet for that. What I couldn't tell is if these had these been mocked up or they were reality - were they photogrpahs of a small piece of a beach, perhaps, that had been blown up?
What you want to do is to go right up to these photos, like they were a painting, and examine them super close to see if you can learn anymore. When you're clsoe you can see these hills and craters that have been covered in sand - and these really are huge craters with deep mountain ranges. There's even a few 3D ones that you can look at with 3D glasses that have incredible depth and it feels like you're looking at something that's under the sea. It feels like you're looking at these strange fantasy worlds - but the peculiar thing is as you get closer you can't see anymore - these are not like paintings, so when you get close you don't see working or brushmarks or anything that gives you more clues - you just see the same thing.
In the second room there were also some other tie-dyed t-shirt hippy like photos and also some images that had all become pixelated. I really liked these pixelated ones as there was a sense of the jpegs that had been used and the photography being pushed to its limit and making these intriguing half real - half abstract pictures. There was also a sense, especially in the first room, of something like works by Sigme Polke. But whereas Polke seemed to fight with photos to make pictures and get accidental results like an alchemist, Ruff seems to have a more academic approach.
This would seem to be borne out by the blurb, which revealed that all the planet looking like images were in fact images of Mars sourced from NASA. This information intriguingly made the show more confusing - was I meant to be amazed by the alien imagery and blown away by the pictures like I would be by pictures of the Antartica in a wildlife documentary? Or am I meant to be amazed by the art, but which part of it is the art? Is it the way the photos are made, which seems to be about incredible craft and monumental size. Or is the art the way these alien landscapes look like a beach you may find on the British coastline?
This confusion was kind of how I felt leaving - intrigued and confused, but in a good way although I didn't get an emotional hit out of the exhibition - it was cooler and more controled and refined, but intriguing, sort of.
Review by Robert Dunt - practising artist and Founder & CEO of www.ArtTop10.com - www.robertdunt.com
Thomas Ruff, MA.R.S runs at the Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street until April 21. The Davies Street Gagosian also has a show of Thomas Ruff entitled Nudes, this also runs until April 21.