‘The work of Ruth van Beek (1977, Netherlands) teases the viewer gently. She presents us with rigorous catalogues of indiscernible photographs, often arranged in books. Colourful painting and collage conceal old pictures, occasionally letting a plant’s leaf escape from underneath.

Ruth has a strong affection for images displayed in manuals that circulated before the 80’s. Conversing with her, it became evident that this link relates back to her childhood memories. Her mother went to study House Economics to learn ‘methods’ for everyday tasks. She died while Ruth was a young adult, and what her mother hadn't taught her, she learnt through these handbooks. The materials she uses are rooted in this intimate story.

The original photographs represent elements of middle-class domesticity: pets, plants, fruits and vegetables. By physically manipulating, hiding, replacing and re-contextualising, she appropriates and creates anew, wiping-out the seriousness of the ordinary objects. This transformation is embodied in the pictures: we see the stroke of paint and scissors, the active hands of the artist meticulously organising her iconoclast body of work. The operation is intuitive, no sketches, no discarding, no way back. The failure belongs and becomes the gesture.

The work is playful. It appears naïve and through this, becomes subversive. By substituting the professional images for abstract shapes, Ruth ironically distorts photographies pretension to represent the world, and proposes an alternate dimension. The manuals were made to explain ‘how to do’ things. The artist converts them into instructions for NOT knowing how to do things. Beek doesn’t emphasise a feminist point of view, but the work still deals with women’s roles, and more broadly, with humans inventing wobbly strategies to go about life.

For the final outcome, she often returns to the printed manual as a democratic medium. Taking the form of a catalogue, an archive or a study, her publications repeatedly explore a desire to organise what is not organisable. Published by Art Paper Editions, the title of her latest book, How To Do The Flowers, references bouquet arrangements for social occasions. But the book shows very few flowers; and anyway, we don’t do flowers. Ruth plays and questions norms, conventions, social injunctions, as much as she does our awkwardness towards daily life. Her shapes overflow the frames, go over the edges, and escape from the books and the spatial installations she creates. The new figures challenge the old ones as they do photography and the object of art. And, gracefully, they mock the seriousness of it all. ‘

                                                                                               Yet Magazine #12