Gallery visit – Gerhard Richter

Artist Rooms Gerhard Richter(28th July 2018)[Exhibition] John Hansard Gallery. 28th May-18th August 2018

This exhibition doesn’t contain as many paintings as I would like, the problem being that Richter has such a broad artistic vocabulary that it needs to encompass all his genres to be a good representation of the man.

As a result there was tapestry, squeegee painting, magnified paintings, photos of paintings magnified, photos, phots with paint on, pigment coated glass, blocks of coloured squares and a 30 minute video explaining his stained glass window at Cologne. There was also a room with facsimilies of the 48 heads.

Downstairs, the first pieces you see are 4 representational Persian rugs, that are patterned with a squeegee image almost like a folded ink blot picture. The friend I went with took issue with the fact that a Persian rug has to have an inbuilt imperfection, my counter to that is that maybe Richter already feels his work is imperfect given his attitude to painting photos? The initial pictures that the patterns were based on where different so the colour composite are not the same between works, in fact as I walked around the corner it took a while to work out that these where stitched pieces accuratly portraying his painted works, they aren’t small either. According to the booklet accompanying the exhibition, these represent 1 of his paintings split into 4, each quarter being used to create one full rug. Looking at them trying to see if there is meaning in the patterns and just amazed at the ability to get the colours to still look like queegee paintings.

The next room is a full squeegee painting and another smaller picture a portion of which was blown up in size and painted 4 fold larger than the original. The texture has been lost in the repetition (on purpose) as the original is quite impasto. While this links to the rugs and curates well as another explanation into Richter’s facination with replicates, it didn’t have the same impact as the abstraction visible in the actual squeegee painting on the wall 90degrees to its right.

Upstairs are 3 rooms, the first contained 3 abstract paintings, I was struck by silicate 880-4 as an enlarged microscopic view that had been softened by over brushing. The rythmic brush-strokes put me in mind of a vinyl record with their uniform marks and the light reflected like on an album. I would be interested to have seen how much paint was originall on the canvas before overbrushing. The repatition in the pattern seen so large had a soporific effect and I could have sat there for a long time.

I was less impressed with his pigment on glass pieces, the colour opposite sheets placed at right angles to reflect each other in a corner of the next room seemed to just be playing with colour, which as a lead in to the 4900 colours in the corner room seemed a bit cheesy.

The 4900 colours is almost reverential in the space at the Hansard gallery, the room is more than double height and the white background shows off the colours well given the huge amount of natural light and the view of the city from the huge window that takes out a full corner of the room. The video available to see on the floor below has Richter explaining that to him, it is difficult to read anything into the design, computer generated algorithm mixing the colours to make the pattern.

The 48 portraits are ambigous to say the least, originally painted for the German Pavillian at the 36th Venice Biennale in 1972 they show 3 sets of men as closed in head and start of shoulder portraits. They represent writers, musicians and scientists but where picked more for aesthetics over who they were, also, as they were put up 3 walls of a 4 walled room, it was noticeable they looked in and from the middle looked forward to you. They all still look like individuals though and there is inconsistancy in the softening so some of the eyes are clearer than others. I think my concerns where

it was like walking into a memorial of dead white men.

If Richter has such conflicting views on painting photos, how does he get around allowing photos of his paintings that are softened views of other photos? Which image has the greatest value to him? And bear in mind he allowed 4 sets of copies to be made…

I would like to see more of Richters paintings, he remains an enigma.

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