Abstract Painting (Abstraktes Bild)
Date 1987
Medium Oil on canvas (Dyptich)
Dimensions 260 x 400 cm
Inventory ID UID 102-483
Gerhard Richter undertook his academic training in East Germany, but it was in West Germany, where he travelled to in the 1960s, that he came into contact with the work of Jackson Pollock and Lucio Fontana who sought to smash pre-established hegemonies. For Richter, who had lived under the oppressive political regime of his homeland, this was a significant moment in his career: from that point on, his work sought to question authenticity in art, the place of painting and the responsibility of the viewer. All of these concerns are suggested in Abstraktes Bild (1987). This large and impulsive painting by Richter confronts the viewer with an intrusion of colours and textures that impel him into an uncertain realm in which the resulting image is its plural form with an infinitely suggestive potential. Richter debates the nature of painting here by de-constructing traditional assumptions and via a random process ensures that the motif, detached from pre-delineated planes, gradually emerges from a surface immersed in a pictorial chaos that refuses limits and escapes the recognisable: ‘Painting is the making of an analogy for something non-visual and incomprehensible – giving it form and bringing it within reach. And that is why good paintings are incomprehensible’ (Richter, 1985). In Abstraktes Bild, Richter thus refuses to attempt or suggest the figurative in any way. The layers of paint which gradually reveal themselves are applied arbitrarily and after intervals of time which separate them within a whole that is simultaneously one: it is these long intervals which ultimately expose a ‘highly planned kind of spontaneity’ (Richter, 1984) in his painting. The final product is the result of a cyclical process of exclusion and addition until there is nothing more to remove or add and the painting becomes self-sufficient. AMB