- Gerhard Richter
- Abstraktes Bild
- signed, numbered 845-7 and dated 1997 on the reverse
- oil on Alu Dibond
- 100 by 90cm.; 39 3/8 by 35 1/2 in.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1998
London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Gerhard Richter, 1998, p. 51 and p. 98, no. 845-7, illustrated in colour
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Implementing remarkable knowledge of his craft, Richter has carefully and meditatively created the Abstrakte Bilder. Strained through muslin, agglomerations and clumps of pigment are eradicated from large vats of oil paint to ensure an absolutely smooth application and manipulation by the squeegee. A base coat of this carefully refined paint is applied with a large brush after which Richter applies further paint to the surface or directly onto the squeegee which is then dragged across the picture plane. Comprising a length of flexible Perspex fitted with a handle, the squeegee is the tool through which the slick laminas of oil paint and compositional permutations are attained. Depending on the drying time of the pigment used and the degree of distinction desired between painterly layers, Richter leaves the work in progress for an amount of time before instigating the next sweep and painterly accretion. Several works are created in this way at once in the studio; moving from one painting to the next, Richter systematically analyses and scrutinises each stage in a painting’s execution, until a compositional resolution or chromatic counterpoint presents itself.
There is a marked clinical bent to Richter’s method. From the very start the painter has called into question the conceptual underpinnings of his medium, which at times, to quote Robert Storr, "has resembled a dissecting table on which the medium has been laid out and systematically flayed" (Robert Storr, Gerhard Richter: The Cage Paintings, London 2009, p. 64). By vivisecting the canon of abstraction with the deliberation of a forensic scientist, Richter invites a wavering dialogue between an intimation of "something on a higher plane" whilst un-picking its claims to metaphysical truth (Gerhard Richter in conversation with Nicholas Serota in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Modern, Gerhard Richter: Panorama, 2011, p. 19). Simultaneously invoking yet eschewing an abstract expressionistic reading, Richter has forged a practice of pure painting distanced from a gestural imperative yet removed from reliance upon a pre-existing source. Richter's forensic layering of colour and compositional administering of paint accretions repudiates premeditation; indeed painting in this way renders definitive compositional planning utterly redundant. Rather, Richter's actions and critical Yes/No judgements invite a compelling visual dialogue with chance and indeterminacy to echo the way in which a photograph impassively reproduces appearance. Slickly veiled surfaces reminiscent of the downward-flowing condensation on a windowpane or an out of focus photograph here impart remarkably mimetic qualities. As is evidenced in the present work, Richter powerfully and deliberately wields a suspension between accident and facture to impart a canon of abstraction, which at its very core, harbours a photographic driving force.