d.o.pe. a series of new works by Thomas Ruff is the first to find the artist using large wall tapestries as a textile carrier for his images. Featuring fractal patterns the tapestries reflect Ruff’s long-standing interest in the beauty and visualization of complex mathematical phenomena.
The title of the series refers to Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, a 1954 essay describing the British philosopher’s experiments with mind-altering drugs and the consciousness-expanding potential of artificial sensory impressions. The psychedelic imagery in d.o.pe. continues Ruff’s ongoing exploration of human perception, specifically as it relates to both real and constructed reality.
Ruff’s multi-faceted practice mines the ever-changing possibilities of photography, investigating visual and cultural phenomena to address the ways in which technology influences our seeing. It manifests across a wide range of subjects and methods ranging from classical portrait photography to algorithmically generated digital images.
In the early 2000s, Ruff first turned his attention to the visualized geometric structures, for which the mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot coined the word ‘fractal‘ in 1975. Fractal patterns exhibit a high degree of self-similarity, which is to say that magnifying any part of the original shape shows the same shape repeated over and over again.
The correlation between fractals as both natural and artificial structures chimes with Ruff’s ongoing investigation of human perception. What happens when the line between real and constructed reality blurs, when the two are no longer entirely distinguishable?
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”– William Blake
These images – visual phenomena that exist outside the realm of rational imagination but are nevertheless perceived as real – resonate with Ruff as they point to an expanded concept of perception. Adding to this visual language are the material properties of the velvety, shiny velour tapestries themselves: Velour was popular in interior décor and saw a particular heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. The industrially manufactured textile has a soft, organic feel that underscores Ruff’s interest in artificially constructed naturalness. The choice of printed tapestries gives the psychedelic patterns in d.o.pe. an object-like character and contribute to a sense of spatial depth. With his new series, Ruff takes up a historical image-making technique and reinterprets traditional tapestry by choosing industrially produced velour carpets.