Monday, 4 April 2016

The Humanity in Using Photography for Painting - Gerhard Richter

In 2011 John-Paul Stonard writes about Gerhard Richter, in the Magazine Tate Inc., as he contemplates how the German artist handles his source material, his use of 'snaps' and images cut from illustrated West German Magazines:

Part of October 18, 1977 Series - Gerhard Richter
"Richter holds all of his sources at arm's length. He is never exhorting us to think this way or that."

He cites a series of paintings from 1977, dealing with the Baader-Meinhof terrorist group, that used newspaper photographs as source material. Each is a blurred yet a photo real image that removes much of the narrative yet the subject is profound. The exact meaning of these is known to many who understand the political situation of the time and yet there are more who do not know the cultural reference. There exists an element of ambiguity.

Richter's choice of image for these paintings is based upon his reaction to the original article from which he took them, and the political environment of the time. In some respects he is trying to reproduce an atmosphere, rather than necessarily make a statement, which is partly evident through his removal of the lettering that originally punctuated the striking photographs.

Part of October 18, 1977 Series - Gerhard Richter
There is an air of uncertainty, a visual language that is primitive, and we understand on some level what this is and how it could in real life, and does in reflection, make us feel. This is perhaps the message that Richter wants to carry forward and part of his source. His original selection of the images for these paintings is also about him translating his feelings through duplicating the environment at the time and then their interpretation.

Richter also stays close to the original image's photographic make-up for this form of journalistic photograph also carries with it a voyeuristic element that only such photography can achieve and then allow us to literally witness something as if a crime scene. These powerful elements also exist in the work and bind the meanings.

On a deeper level Stonard states that Richter views photographs as 'natural things' and that they open a window onto nature. That nature consists of everything including humans and through photography you can gain direct access to nature and that Richter was a innovator in this area of the contemporary art world. The October 18, 1977 paintings we are witness to this. The results are harsh and visceral and we share in their humanity and nature.

STONARD, J-P, (2011) Inescapable Truths, Tate Etc. Issue 23, Autumn 2011, Tate Media, UK

No comments:

Post a Comment