Gerhard Richter Painting – The Film
There is an artist alive today whose paintings achieve auction prizes of US$ 200 million, which is more than works of Monet, Giacometti, and Rothko combined. His 80th birthday was celebrated in February with retrospective shows at the most prolific art galleries; the Centre Pompidou, Paris, Tate Modern, London, and the National Gallery in Berlin. His name is Gerhard Richter. The New Zealand Film Festival is currently screening the documentary, entitled Painting.
Gerhard Richter was born in Dresden, Germany, and fled to West Germany in 1961 due to suffering from the restrictions imposed by the communist regime. "The thing that was really unbearable was the hopelessness, the pressure to succumb – how shall I say? – to compromise, to fall in line. His fate became entangled with German history again after his mentally ill Aunt Marianne (he painted her portrait) had been killed due to the Nazi eugenics program.
Though he moved away from the communist regime, he used art as a means to comment on the political situation. In the 1960s he made paintings based on black and white photographs from books or newspapers, sometimes with the original captions. He realised that our impressions of the world are shaped by mass media. Later he introduced what would become his hallmark – the blur, a measure to alienate reality, or to reinvent it.
Starting with a series of monochromes Richter embarked on his abstract works from the 1960s onwards. In his current abstract paintings he layers spontaneous gestures with the paint-brush that he then reverses or “unreveals” by scratching. The film observes his work on abstract paintings in 2009.
Other interesting works include his colour chart paintings which he began experimenting with in 1966, decades before pixels emerged from the digital realm. This, I think, is his ultimate alienation of reality that reassembles a new worldview by combining randomised, mathematically arranged mixtures of primary colours and grey. His 1974 painting “4096 colours” was the origin of the stained glass window for the southern transept window in the cathedral of Cologne, which Richter finished in 2007.
This window, more than 100 square metres in size, was derived from 72 colours, leading to 11,263 pixels that fill the neo-gothic tracery. Richter’s window concludes the figurative mediaeval window circle from 1320. Viewers attempt to find an image or even simply a point of focus in the pixelated blur, but they are unable to grasp a concrete form. Richter’s bold and unconventional approach caused some dispute amongst the catholic clergy and the cathedral’s bishop refused to attend the inauguration ceremony.
Art, even sacred art, can still be powerfully controversial. A true master of art engages the heart, and Gerhard Richter is one of those masters. Don’t miss the film being screened in the Rialto Saturday, 21 July 5:00pm and Sunday, 22 July 1:00pm.
- Posted July 17, 2012