Marking a departure from the non-referential exploration of formal artistic concerns seen in works such as Schattenbild I (1968) and Schattenbild II (1968), and Richter’s ‘shadow paintings’ more generally, Seestück I constitutes an important meeting between the acclaimed German artist and another cornerstone of the contemporary: landscape painting. Depicting a cold, grey sea and an horizon line, with this image Richter reminds the viewer that abstraction is as much a product of the natural world as that of technology. Resembling a photograph, this piece is stunning in its granular detail, and a foremost example of the artist’s ‘blur’ technique.
The work’s indeterminacy constantly refers us to photographic technologies; yet the minutiae of Richter’s brushstrokes, barely visible yet hauntingly palpable, evoke not only a desire to record life as it is, but to create a unique, singular image that could only be produced by the human hand. Commenting on his ‘blur’ technique, Richter once said: ‘I blur things so that they do not look artistic or craftsmanlike but technological, smooth and perfect. I blur things to make all the parts a closer fit. Perhaps I also blur out the excess of unimportant information.’