Gerhard Richter | About Painting

Gerhard Richter | About PaintingImage courtesy of S.M.A.K.

Gerhard Richter | About Painting
S.M.A.K., Gent (Belgium)
From 21 October 2017 to 18 February 2018

S.M.A.K. is presenting the first exhibition of work by Gerhard Richter in a Belgian museum since 1976. Richter is considered to be one of today’s most important artists and as one of the postwar renewers of painting. Eight previously unseen works from 2017 are to be shown together with works from the last 14 years – including landscapes, digital prints and abstract works – and grouped around the glass piece 7 Panes (House of Cards) (2013).

Gerhard Richter | About PaintingImage courtesy of S.M.A.K.

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This arrangement echoes and carries forward the presentation of the early works from the 60s and 70s around his first work in glass, 4 Panes of Glass (1967). Showing works mainly from these two periods links together fundamental aspects of Richter’s work from the 60s with his present artistic practice. Richter has since the beginning used his oeuvre as a source of metaphors and structure for the creation of new work. It is for this reason that the exhibition is arranged chronologically; it becomes clear that each new work is a new visual solution that emerges from an existing work. In 4 Panes of Glass, which is jammed between the floor and the ceiling, Richter made painting three-dimensional. This underlines his conceptual approach to the medium at a time when conceptual and minimalist tendencies were coming increasingly to the fore.

Gerhard Richter | About PaintingImage courtesy of S.M.A.K.

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In his early works, Richter marked out the foundations for his artistic method, fuelled by both chance and research, which remains relevant to his current art. Since his very first period, he has transcended the distinction between abstract and figurative painting that has developed over time. This applies to his paintings of curtains and windows in the 60s – including Curtain IV (1965) and Window (1968). Although these paintings derive their revealing nature from figurative art, they lack the illusion of real depth. Gerhard Richter makes use of the history of art and culture as a source for his questioning of painting, but also uses its materiality, its formal qualities and the way it relates to photography. This results in proof that a painting is not capable of representing or replacing reality.

Gerhard Richter | About PaintingImage courtesy of S.M.A.K.

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The work 7 Panes (House of Cards) (2013) consists of seven sheets of glass which stand on their own in the room, leaning hesitantly against each other. They mirror and reflect the surrounding room and can be interpreted as an allusion to Richter’s entire oeuvre. The eight new works from 2017 which are now being shown for the first time were painted on canvases of various sizes, using vivid colours and in detailed layers. Richter used his paintbrush, a palette knife and a doctor blade to ‘sculpt’ the paintings. His years of experience enable him to create extremely complex compositions. His large- scale series called Silicate (2003) shows biological structures that are invisible to the human eye, photographed using a nano microscope. Strip (2013) is a series composed of digitally computed details of an existing painting which the artist printed and recombined. These recent works show Richter’s artistic application of the latest image technologies and reflect the technological progress between the 60s and the present, such as computerisation and virtual rotation.

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