Gerhard Richter: Panorama – Tate Modern

'Abstract Painting' 1997, Gerhard Richter, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Ga

I am frequently brought face to face with my own ignorance of art and art history when I visit a major exhibition at the Tate.  As on this occasion, I had seen some of the works before, but had not previously made the connection that both the fuzzy grey and black paintings based on photographs on subjects related to the Second World War, as well as the large abstract works, gloriously described in the curator’s notes as ‘early squeegee’ were all by the same artist.

In this retrospective covering a career of some 60 years, you can see monochrome works and ones full of vibrant clashing colours; there are images fuzzy round the edges alongside knife sharp representations of flowers or the artist’s daughter; there are small neat canvasses and big, brash ones.  So many different styles, evidencing a person experimenting with all the things that a painting might be.

Some of the large single colour conceptual pieces didn’t speak to me at all; whereas others had me pausing for long periods so I could absorb all the detail; some I wanted to look at closely, while others were more satisfying and harmonious from a distance.

I know that if the artist calls the piece ‘Abstract’, I’m meant to be looking at shape and colour, not to look for representation or narrative, but I just can’t help myself.  I know I will remember this pinky red work because it reminds me of a wet city pavement after dark.

In it I can see the reflection of the lights from shops windows, traffic lights and advertising hoardings.  The seasons are just changing, as autumn is turning into winter. I am rushing to get to my destination, watching my footing so as not to slip on rain sodden leaves which have resisted the sweeping from the street cleaners.  My umbrella is rolled up, but in my hand because there’s definitely the threat of more rain in the air.  Everyone around me is walking with a purpose, quick, careful steps to hurry inside before the rain returns, the ingredients for that evening’s supper in a canvas bag by their side; but first they’ll stop off for one drink in a small bar in the square, where their glasses will steam up as soon as they cross the threshold and are engulfed in the warm air of conviviality.

What do you see?

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1 Comment

  1. margaret nickels

     /  November 11, 2011

    An illuminated pond with various insects caught in the beam,I really like it .


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