In J’ACCUSE, van Empel’s exploration with the loss of innocence as a subject is in line with his former work but which has now transcended into something stronger. More poignant than before, his new compositions deliberately address people’s disconnection with real life: the fact that we are permanently distracted and focused on constructing ‘online’ versions of our spatial identity. The web has become a mainstream occupation that only seems to deal with the examination of the nature of looking (voyeurism) and being looked at (transparency).
There is no consciousness of what is valuable.
J’ACCUSE is practically an indictment against the desirability of the artificial world created by new media. In brilliant new Still Lifes, produced in monochrome palets, van Empel, has, by creating depth, imitated nature, and even magnified it. Through this exaggeration, these compositions with wood, meat, gold, gemstones and fish articulate the dichotomy of appearance and reality; the contact between photography and daily life. Some give an allegorical exploration of vanities, such as Still Life - Gold, that invites us to explore the matter of opulence and abundance, and in turn to consider head on the vulgarity of conspicuous consumption and exposure.
Our focus on insubstantiality is essentially embodied in a Still Life with transparent bubbles that splash in the air and also on a seemingly aquatic surface (Still Life - Bubbles). Nothing today has lasting real value, as could be said of our daily digital postings. The airy work calls to mind the conceptual work ‘Salle Pacifique’(1984) by Dutch painter René Daniëls (Eindhoven, 1950). It finds a splendid counterpart in another Still Life with hard transparent crystals, representing eternity (Still Life – Cristal).
Of course, other artists inspired van Empel, such as Willem de Kooning and his woman daubed in pink paint in 'Rosy-fingered dawn at Louise Point' in 1963 and 'Two figures in a landscape' of 1986 - both in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. This is where van Empel introduces his chunks of meat, like a grotesque butcher’s display. (Still Life - Meat). A skinned pig's head faces his own pink other flesh. In the foreground is a large, staring bull's eye. The show doesn’t end here. The artist has created four disturbing nudes; they are in pink.
It all goes toward conveying van Empel’s underlying concept of genuine concern of how unsettling todays reality of virtual reality can be. Perhaps this is why van Empel choose to present a genuine photograph of the presentator Andrea van Pol.
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