The successful career of German artist Gerhard Richter re-establishes the term “inconsistent” into something positive and endearing. Utilising photography, Richter creates both realistic and abstract works as means to challenge traditional approaches to painting.

Born in 1932 in Dresden, Richter’s upbringing was shaped by the war and death that surrounded him. Though originally trained in the strict Socialist-Realist curriculum implemented by Russia, it is perhaps unsurprising that he would go on to produce work that advocates for the death of painting. Relying heavily on photography in his realistic work, Richter copies banal, found photographs with slight adjustments to the original image. This is particularly true of his Bader-Meinhof series which blurs photographs of the German terrorist group, a group of paintings which both outraged the country and launched his career. This blurred image is reflected, too, in his abstract works which push and pull colours across the canvas.

Across his realistic and abstract works, Richter explores the theme of distrust in painting’s ability to accurately depict the world. Both methods of art making create works that do the opposite of what art is meant to do; they do not arrest the viewer, they do not shock the viewer. Instead, they force the viewer to stop and really, truly look.

Gerhard Richter
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