Dutch-born artist Gerco de Ruijter has become known for his somewhat unconventional approach to aerial photography and his technique of piloting his camera with a kite or a fishing rod in order to capture his photos. Much of his career has been spent documenting the open landscapes of the Netherlands and Iceland, bringing about a surrealist effect to barren lands.
Drawn toward the minimal aesthetic of barren patches of land with bright green and blue patches “floating in it” as seen from overhead, de Ruijter began documenting the surreal beauty of irrigating circular fields. In 1990 de Ruijter began experimenting with movement in his images, and in 2013, with the help of Google Earth, de Ruijter was able to locate crop circles spread out across the Southwest U.S., and he began amassing photos of over 1,000 crop circles, turning the results into a four minute stop-motion film, “CROPS.” An exhibition titled “ANTI-GRAND Contemporary Perspectives on Landscape,” featuring de Ruijter’s series recently wrapped at the University of Richmond’s Harnett Museum of Art.
Because the quality of the screenshots — obtained from the images de Ruijter collected via Google Earth — would not reproduce in a high enough quality, he decided to use film instead of still photographs to present his work. “The clock-like movement was made as a formal sequence of images, relating to the movement of a “real” circular irrigation arm, ” de Ruitjer states, as told to Barbara Gordon, curator of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum in Washington. “I made the collection of images with the pivot in one quarter (the first quarter of the clock). I arranged and selected 1/4 of the images for the first quarter and rotated the images that I didn’t use 90 degrees. The I selected the images from the second quarter and so on. CROPS’ is made in parts and brought together afterwards.” The images were placed in Photoshop in batches and color corrected to bring out the max saturation of blues and greens and reds.
One large geometric circle with a pivoting arm after another, the images replicate a clock or a watch and beg the question: Is de Ruijter implying a counting down to something inevitable? Unavoidable? But de Ruijter himself insist his series was not created to speak to a larger issue of water usage or irrigation techniques in the United States or any other place. “What is similar in my work and that of abstract geometrical painters,” he tells the Hirshhorn as part of his recent exhibit ‘CROPS: Black Box series’, “is foremost that we do not dish up a story or a deeper meaning. The viewer sees nothing but the image itself.”