Thursday, 10 March 2016

Gerhard Richter on the Meaning of the Photograph in his Painting

When considering the use of photography as a means of gathering imagery for painting in 1993 Gerhard Richter talks to Hans-Ulrich Obrist and describes how he views the use of photography is becoming a kind of sketch.
"In the past, painters went out into the open air and scratched. We take snaps."  

For Richter this association with the word 'snaps' relates the use of the photography to the every day. He adds value to the experience, or sensation captured in the picture because it's important to the person who took it in the first place. When Richter is quoted as calling photographs and their function as being cult objects he comments:
Gerhard Richter, “Reiseb├╝ro” (1966)
"The legitimate pictures are the photographs – the devotional pictures that people hang up in their homes. We then sometimes use them for art, and that may well be illegitimate." Page 259

He is saying here that the strength of the photograph is more the actual reason for hanging it not necessarily the appropriation for his needs. He is placing importance upon the reason for its existence in the first place.
When questioned further about the use of photography in his painting Richter takes a defensive stance and says;

"Many critics thought that my art was a critique of contemporary life: criticising it for being cut off from direct experience. But that was never what I meant."

What did Richter mean by this? His photo-paintings, that span decades, show images of his family and film stills, the surfaces sometimes being blurred, the faces indistinguishable or otherworldly. Yet they are deeply personal the details that are hidden by a gesture or the position of, say, his daughter turning away from the camera seem to imply a very personal experience that the viewer will never truly understand. We are looking into a world that belongs to the artist and are trying to glean as much information that is possible.  We will never know that true sensation that first initiated the
photo from which the painting was constructed.
The atmosphere that Richter draws upon are his own sensations, his experiences and on many levels this is why the appropriation of photography when used as a source material for painting relying so heavily upon the artists initial response to this secondary source.

BORCHARDT-HUME, A. (2011) Gerhard Richter: Panorama: A Retrospective; Tate, England
OBRIST, H. (ed) (1995) Gerhard Richter The Daily Practice of Painting Writings 1962-1993; Thames and Hudson, Great Britain

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