Connect>Create 2008

A personal response to the photographs of Thomas Ruff

All that’s there is the surface, and because that’s as deep as it goes, it reflects back to me, the awareness of my own judgements and makes me quite aware of my own projected feelings towards the face in the portrait; I can’t really escape this. There are no obvious facial expressions or other ‘clues’ to read into, to gain a deeper insight into who this person is.  I can only make assumptions and this doesn’t feel good whilst still face to face with this person. It makes me acknowledge how I judge from appearances, but is there anything else to judge from? Is a surface appearance a more truthful reality than a second guess of what might lie beneath it - if anything?


The art of physiognomy, which dates back to ancient times (1533 onwards), alleges it is possible to assess a persons character or temperament from their outer appearance but Ruff refuses to suggest a subjects personality and character based upon their appearance, he states that “a person has too many layers to be depicted in a photograph, and that a photograph of a person is just one of a million possible, of that person” (see links). He also states that “what people see, eventually, is only what’s already inside them” (see links) and this is definitely realized when standing in front of the work. I may be seeing a portrait of an unknown face, but I am also looking at myself.


By Sharon Coals, a student from the BA(hons) Contemporary Fine Art, Hull School of Art and Design 2009.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Ferens Art Gallery, Hull | 
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