Flirting with photography's boundaries, Thomas Ruff's works testify to multiple practices. Without a camera, negative, or darkroom, the Substrat series was born out of cyberspace and plied into pulsing abstract psychedelic color fields. Derived from images of Japanese anime and manga, the outlines of forms are aglow with exaggerated intensity. The swirling colors are reminiscent of an oil spill in a water illuminated by neon lights. And like the immiscibility of water and oil, the brilliant pixels of electric blue, fiery red, rosy magenta and avocado green are imperviously separate. Ruffs' compositions of digitally altered web based pictures are as tightly controlled and precise as the Bechers' photo grids. Training under the Bechers in the early 1970s, Ruff's photographs are steeped in tradition while using the most sophisticated technologies.
Although Ruff insists that his photographs capture "only the surface of things," this series reveals a gleaning of things beneath. The title, Substrat, by definition suggests that these images capture photography's essence and foundation and the make up of images in the contemporary world.