Sunday, 4 December 2011

Floater (Too Much To Ask)

I managed to get to London to visit ‘Panorama: a Retrospective of Gerhard Richter’ at Tate Modern last weekend. It was too important an exhibition to miss, as, like many, I view Richter as being probably the most important living painter working today. It was also a rare opportunity to see such an extensive collection of his work in one place….and yet, despite it being a retrospective, and a terrific exhibition, I left aware of how much work wasn’t there as much as how much was. A retrospective of Richter is such a difficult thing to pull off, as his output has been so prolific on the one hand, but also so much of his work has been produced in huge series’. I left somehow wanting more….

But still it was great, and it has occupied my thoughts all week. It is the depth and intensity of his enquiry that is so mind-boggling, and seems to really bore down into your very soul being the longer you spend with the work. Those series of grey monochrome paintings; the clouds; the colour chart series; the large ‘abstracts’ of details; the enormous squeegeed abstract paintings; the portraits of his children; his SS uniformed uncle; the aunt murdered by the SS; the Baader-Meinhoff portraits; the recent 9/11 painting.

Here is an artist with an unparalleled creative and restless mind that has questioned so much what it is to paint in modern times: representation vs abstraction; painting from ‘found’ photographs only; painting from his own photographs; painting only in grey; full, joyous colour paintings; the landscape romanticized; the landscape destroyed; an image built up; an image obliterated. And amongst this constant formal and conceptual questioning he has revealed and provoked so many questions about politics, history and culture. There can’t be a university painting department in the western world where his work isn’t discussed and debated. If there is, you shouldn't bother studying there...

Like I said, it was a deeply intense experience.

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