Gerhard Richter, Private Journal
"The much despised 'artistic
scene of today' is quite harmless and friendly when we do not compare
it with false claims: it has nothing to do with traditional values
that we uphold (or which elevate us), it has virtually nothing at
all to do with art. Thus the 'art scene' is not despicable, cynical
or without spirit but as a temporarily blossoming, busily proliferating
scene it is only a variation on a perpetual social game that fulfils
needs for communication, in the same way as sport, stamp collecting
or breeding cats. Art happens despite this, rarely and always unexpectedly,
never because we make it happen."
from the private journal of Gerhard
Richter, entries from which were reproduced in the exhibition catalog
"Gerhard Richter", Tate Gallery, London 1992.
has worked against the traditional "master narratives" of
artist's development, including: Oedipal battles with past artists,
traditional career narrative of passing through styles and techniques
to a final "mature" or "complete" vision and signature
style or technique (anti-Picasso, anti-Pollock). Affinities with some
the need and quest for originality, authenticity. For Richter photography
has already become the supreme means of making images in our culture.
Painting must work differently but give over much of image making to
photography. Then, so what?
the game of painting in a context where leaders in the art world had
declared painting obsolete, exhausted, played out to the end in an era
of multiplication of images from multiple sources and the leveling of
high and low images in the final stages of pop art.
in styles and techniques: is he just a trickster, a nihilist, all style
and no substance?
- Or is he showing that all painting has a style, a rhetoric, that getting
to a "degree zero" of the painted surface bearing form
or content with no style is impossible (the gray paintings). (Compare
Barthes Writing Degree Zero on the question of a style-less
- A conceptual
or minimal artist in the guise of a master oil painter?
his paintings mainly (merely?) commentaries on painting, deconstructing
how paintings are made, demystifying the painterly surface, using
illusionism against itself?
photographs, the contemporary index of image and "reality"
or world outside the image. Photos already at distance from experienced
reality; paintings of photos cancel the photo as index of reality.
use the blur to make photos (or photorealism) more arty or stylized,
but to make things even more uncertain. Recognizable photo-based image
in a blur: what are we seeing? are we sure?
attempt at a neutral, zero-degree style extended from black-and-white
photographs. Also conveys doubt, ambiguity, uncertainty about identifying
images and people, and removal from the full-color, lived visual experience.
blur paintings and deconstructing realism: "realism" is
a style, a rhetoric; "reality" is only a category in our
discourse, not something we have direct access to.
what he sees as false emotion, false faith in illusionistic images,
seems truer than an affirmation of well-executed false emotion
- We desire
that art gives us a heightened reality, but it's only an illusion,
a wish, a prayer.
- His writings
speak about renewing or reinventing painting each time, dealing with
over- or extreme self-consciousness, art-historical self- awareness.
and the negative way: painting by painting out what you decide not to
do, what you consciously avoid, deny, know but refuse.
have nothing to say, and I'm saying it." (Richter quoting John
on various styles, painting movements:
pop, removes shock or background narrative (compare Warhol's Jackie paintings and Richter's "Woman with Umbrella")
flatens, neutralizes it in gray scale paintings
and stroke abstract paintings: satire on abstract expressionism
and Lichtenstein's brush stroke paintings
Martin Irvine, 2003-2009