Intense colour fields and striking characters fill Richter’s epic 2 by 3 metre composition, in which a figure looks across a valley to the luminescent golden figure across from him. Cast against a seismographic background, the scene is at once sublime and unsettling, unifying the romantic and the uncanny. At the heart of Natti Dread is a sense of ambiguity; the figure in the foreground, bearing the torn flag and rag-tag outfit of a soldier watches as a golden woman scales the sheer façade of a mountain, leaving a glowing trail in her wake. He is at once chance observer and possible pursuer and she, otherworldly threat and pursued runaway. Gestural lines, like tendrils of writhing plasma, create the shapes and curves of the painting, like contour rings displaying elevation in cartography. Through his use of part-scientific and part-abstracted lines, Richter's composition gains a rich depth and sense of volume, creating a sense of reality despite the hallucinatory colour palette.
Natti Dread takes as its conceptual departure-point 19th century Romantic Painting. Like Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, the man in the foreground stands poised on a precipice, contemplative and pitched against his environment. Richter, however, draws on the German Neo-Expressionists for his tone and style. He follows in the wake of artists such as Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter for whom the criticality of painting is the primary concern. Supported by artists such as Albert Oehlen, whom Richter assisted in the early 1990s, Richter employs the themes of early Romanticism and transforms them into something entirely contemporary. As such, Richter’s figures maintain a poetic beauty while simultaneously inhabiting a violent, invigorated world full of danger and promise.
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