Thomas Ruff: Substrate (Substratum)

Ruff's computer-generated Substrate series, begun in 2001. Endeavouring to create a purely abstract photographic image, the artist found that he could do so by blowing up colourful images from Japanese Manga cartoons that he downloads from the internet to the point where all identifiable detail is lost, resulting only in psychedelically-hued, amorphous forms. This body of work stems from the artist's interest in virtual imagery that no longer seems to depict reality, but rather functions as a means of transmitting visual information electronically. With these works, the resulting image bears no relation to its original referent, making it both visually and conceptually abstract. As Valentina Sonzogni describes, "The title Substrate provides the key to understanding the series, and indicates that Ruff is engaged in creating a new genre of abstract photography. In biochemistry, a 'substrate' is a molecule modified by an enzyme, while in linguistics, a 'substratum' is an element of a language identified as being a relic of an earlier language that is now extinct. The word also refers to geological layers. In short, a substrate is a layered structure that is subject to intervention."1

1 Valentina Sonzogni, "Substrat," in Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, ed., Thomas Ruff. Exh. cat. (Milan: Skira, 2009), p. 98.

A chromogenic print with Diasec by Thomas Ruff, titled Substrat 41 I, dated 2009.

Thomas Ruff

Substrat 41 I, 2009
Chromogenic print with Diasec
51 1/8 x 71 5/8 inches (130 x 182 cm)
A chromogenic print with Diasec by Thomas Ruff, titled Substrat 41 I, dated 2009.

Thomas Ruff

Substrat 41 I, 2009
Chromogenic print with Diasec
51 1/8 x 71 5/8 inches (130 x 182 cm)
A photograph by Thomas Ruff, titled Substrat 38 II, dated 2008.

Thomas Ruff

Substrat 38 II, 2008
Chromogenic print
87 3/4 x 64 1/8 inches (223 x 163 cm)
A photograph by Thomas Ruff, titled Substrat 38 III, dated 2008.

Thomas Ruff

Substrat 38 III, 2008
Chromogenic print with Diasec
63 3/4 x 87 3/8 inches (162 x 222 cm)
A photograph by Thomas Ruff, titled Substrat 39 I, dated 2008.

Thomas Ruff

Substrat 39 I, 2008
Chromogenic print with Diasec
87 3/8 x 63 3/4 inches (222 x 162 cm)
A photograph by Thomas Ruff, titled Substrat 35 I, dated 2007.

Thomas Ruff

Substrat 35 I, 2007
Chromogenic print with Diasec
51 1/8 x 72 1/2 inches (130 x 184 cm)

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