Art is the highest form of hope. (Gerhard Richter)
I didn’t know what to expect when we walked in.
I knew of Gerhard Richter, as I’ve heard of him before, I didn’t know much about him.
I’m no artist, nor I have a great knowledge of art other than what most of us do- Picasso, Van Gogh (the depression through his art is captivating), Michelangelo, Da Vinci (no need to say much), you get the idea- but I love spending hours staring into paintings, admiring the talent and coming up with my own stories. Imagination, one of the greatest abilities of the human mind.
And it’s not that often that works of one of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries are displayed at the beautiful, new gallery in the city centre for free!
First room we walked in: Tapestries
We sat at the ‘viewpoint’ (that’s what I call it, the little wooden bench in each room to sit on and immerse into the paintings) and stared at the large, imposing tapestries hanging off the walls. Four different but similar patterns, they somehow look like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (They actually are. Each tapestry is a quarter of Richter’s Abstract Painting 724-4 mirrored and repeated four times). We wonder how the whole picture would look like if you put them together.
They remind me of Rorschach inkblots. What do you see in them? I always wondered how accurate Rorschach tests really are. Can you, with confidence, diagnose a mental disorder from how one interprets ink stains? That’s a whole other story!
I could see a bat with cool sunglasses on, a dog, sound waves, pain, screaming, anger…
I find out later Richter meant to make them look like Rorschach.
In the room next to the Tapestries we come across Abstract Painting No 439. I thought my eyes went blurry but no. It’s the painting.
What is it? Plants? A pond? Is that sunlight? Why does it remind me of neurons and neurotransmitters? Why did Richter want it blurry?
We read in the cute little booklet we were given that this painting is actually a picture (4 times larger) of Richter’s Oil Sketch No 432/11. Which is hanging on its left hand side. It looks very different to the original but also so similar.
I love the original, not only because I love oil paint (I’m not sure why). I can see where Gerhard brushed on top of the last layer of paint, I can see the paint brushes. He must have painted this in stages. The rain of sun rays I can see was added last. That’s what I’d do if I were an artist. Come back to a piece of art and add to it until I feel it’s complete. How do you know when it’s complete though?
Just opposite, one of Richter’s most famous paintings, Abstract Painting 809-3.
I find abstract art thrilling. I love how I can imagine Richter painting the dark blue and black, then days or months later deciding to add all the yellow and then scrape some of it off to reveal the darkness underneath.
Upstairs, the first room we walk into is… eerie. It reminds me of tombstones, a memorial… 48 portraits.
They look like photographs but not quite. Upon closer look we realise they are actually paintings. The talents of this man are endless.
Each picture is a portrait of a famous man, a man who left his mark in history. We recognise some immediately. Others we know of them, but didn’t know how they looked like until now. I can’t believe I did not remember what Alfred Adler, one of the most significant psychologists of all time, looked like.
Why are there no women? And why there were no politicians or other artists in the final selection? I find out much later. If you want to know, all the answers are here.
Just when we are about to move on, the gallery assistant hands us a copy of the paintings with a little blurb of what they were famous for under each portrait. ‘We tend to give this to visitors at the end, let them guess’. I’m glad she did. It’s been a while since I tested my general knowledge.
Next stop my favourite room of the Gallery. The one facing Guildhall Square. The one where Hetain Patel’s Transformer proudly stood months ago, one of my all time favourite pieces of modern art.
I love the views of that room, the ample natural light.
And today it looks brighter because of Colour Charts. ‘Richter used a predetermined mathematical system to create 1,024 shades, then randomly placed the colours in a grid of 4,096 squares, repeating each one four times’ (Gerhard loves number four it seems).
We sat down looking around the room for a while. Fascinating.
The last room we walk in is an artwork collection, samples of other various different techniques and ideas Richter experimented with. He loves photography, painting over photographs, he played with glass and mirrors, amongst others.
I left the exhibition feeling… I don’t even know how to describe the feeling. Excited, amused, inspired, touched. Is there a single word to capture it?
Thank you John Hansard Gallery for a simply stunning exhibition. Thank you for introducing me to Richter’s colourful, bizarre, surreal, world.
I can’t wait for the next one.