Though entirely disconnected from referentiality in both method and conception, Richter’s abstractions nevertheless evoke natural forms and colour configurations. We cannot help but ascribe meaning to the complexity of their layered compositions. As outlined by the artist: “The paintings gain their life from our desire to recognise something in them. At every point they suggest similarities with real appearances, which then, however, never really materialise” (Gerhard Richter cited in: Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago 2009, p. 267). The predication of this telling effect is rooted in the artist’s unique painterly method, and particularly in his chosen depictive tool: the squeegee. The layered excavation and resonant accumulation of colour engendered by the tool imparts an eroded surface reminiscent of myriad natural forms: sunsets, sunrises, shoals, riptides, and cresting waves.
Such a reading of the present work is very much linked to the artist’s methodological dialogue with chance. As the squeegee is dragged across an expanse of paper, the pressure and speed of Richter’s application of paint ultimately surrenders to the unpredictability of chance in informing the composition. It is this separation of the artist from direct expression that bestows Richter’s paintings with their inherently natural look. The shimmering and harmoniously artful orchestration of paint within Untitled vacillates between an act of intense evocation and a simultaneous effacement of painterly form: ingrained within the work’s destructive and unpredictable formation is a reflection of nature itself. As outlined by the scholar Beate Söntgen; Richter’s method “joins the painted traces of the tools together with the layering and intersections of colour to form structures that are figural or landscape in appearance, without ever solidyfing into an object that is once again recognisable” (Beate Söntgen, ‘Work on the Picture: The Discretion of Gerhard Richter’, in: Exh. Cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig Cologne, Gerhard Richter: Abstrakte Bilder, 2008, p. 37). With its immersive appeal reminiscent of a luscious landscape and of the style of Claude Monet’s Nymphéas yet at the same time abstracted through blurs that arise from chance and that trace the accretions of Richter’s Abstrakte Bilder, the present work brilliantly captures the very essence of what rendered that moment in the artist’s career such a pivotal one for painting at large.
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