Richter’s prolifically sustained philosophical enquiry into the medium of painting sought to redefine the very foundations of our contemporary visual language. Oscillating between figurative, constructive and abstract designations, rich pigment accrued in delicate ripples, consumes and encases the surface’s entirety, radiating in ambient space. The result is an intoxicating visual sensation, a homogenous and coherent spatial order that is profoundly intense yet divinely delicate; at once metaphysical and spiritual, perhaps even religious. Richter’s extreme manipulation of the surface conjures a sensation of infinite paint layering. The shifting sensation results in an ambiguous and wondrously enigmatic pictorial field. Compositionally complex, Abstraktes Bild encourages a profound fundamental shift in the very nature of perception and cognition, in turn re-evaluating the limits of representation and the operations of visual understanding.
Visually resplendent with an awe inspiring spectrum of hue, Abstraktes Bild is rendered in a coniferous palette, deciduous and geological in tenor. Emerald green exists alongside notes of aqueous azure as colour convalesces in a symphony of hypnotic tonality. The variegated vertebrae thus offer a myriad of interpretation. Abstraktes Bild recalls the evocative and organic patterns found in nature; a beguiling format simulating ecological topography and the landscape’s capacity for the sublime. As outlined by Richter, "Almost all the abstract paintings show scenarios, surroundings and landscapes that don't exist, but they create the impression that they could exist. As though they were photographs of scenarios and regions that had never yet been seen." ('I Have Nothing to Say and I'm Saying It: Conversation between Gerhard Richter and Nicholas Serota, Spring 2011' in Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern, Gerhard Richter: Panorama, 2011, p. 19).
By the late 1980s Richter had obliterated his relationship to the process of photographic modelling, instead turning to chance and spontaneity as methods of artistic production. Fashioning a long wooden ruler, Richter scraped thick masses of paint across the surface of the canvas in a series of archaeological layers. The artist comments, “With a brush you have control. The paint goes on the brush and you make the mark. From experience you know exactly what will happen. With the squeegee you lose control. Not all control, but some control. It depends on the angle, the pressure and the particular paint I am using” (Ibid). The painstakingly applied stratum of intense chromatic pigment, sequentially masked and exposed by the squeegee’s sweeping graze, incites an artistic engagement with the atmospheric effects of Monet’s Poplars; a series of twenty three Impressionist masterpieces produced in 1891, depicting a row of vegetation situated on the river Epte, near to Monet’s home at Giverny. Furthermore Richter’s opus is retroactively analogous with giants of Abstract Expressionism and Colour Field painting, titans of twentieth century art such as Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. However, Richter’s post-conceptual paintings encapsulate a critical and reflective relationship to the historical transformation of the very concept of painting itself.
As Benjamin H. D. Buchloh highlighted, Richter's position within the canon of abstraction is one of "incontrovertible centrality." (Exh. Cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig; and Munich, Haus der Kunst, Gerhard Richter Large Abstracts, 2009, p. 9). Possessing an aesthetic authority of the very highest calibre, Abstraktes Bild is elegant, auratic and masterfully immortal; a magisterial manifestation of Richter’s eminent artistic endeavours. Underpinning a highly conceptual, sternly philosophical, yet deeply spiritual artistic inquiry, the present work forms the cornerstone of his revolutionary production, reaffirming Richter’s rank as one of the world’s greatest living artists; an insurmountable legacy rivalled by few. As Glenn D. Lowery has noted, “No other artist has placed more intriguing and rigorous demands upon specialists, interpreters, followers and average viewers alike – nor upon himself…In Richter’s work there is a demonstration of the ways in which painting’s resources are constantly replenished by the very problems it seems to pose, both for the painter and the viewer. Nobody in our own time has posed them better or solved them more inventively than Richter” (Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting, 2002, p. 7).
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