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Gerhard Richter Tate Modern "Panorama" until 8 Jan 2012

  • This exhibition is absolutely stunning. First and foremost I'm an artist and it makes me want to get back into the studio and start experimenting and painting straight away. Seriously do not miss this exhibition what ever you do.


    You know the show is going to be good even from the first room. The first thing that strikes you is just how good Richter is at painting. He is brilliant, you look at those photo realist paintings of Spirfires hurtling over the English countryside and you think you could just look at the way he painted those all day. And it's not like that normal photorealist stuff where you can feel the artist wanting you to see just how long he has spent torturously painting a single strand of someone's hair. No, there's none of that - it all looks effortless, like Gerhard just cracked a couple of thise photorealist paintings off one morning. 




    His handling of tone is astonishing - the tonalities are just so correct and clear. It makes the paintings seem terribly intelligent, it's almost like most of the work was done in his head. Richter just sat there, thinking about the best way to make the picture and then once he had decided set about it in a calm and measured way.


    But on top of this artistry Richter has also got pounds of poetry - he's not only able to paint beautifully but able to throw up all sorts of questions with the imagery he uses. The picture of his uncle Rudi dressed in his Nazi uniform for instance deal with how as a German himself Richter is coming to terms, or trying to understand what happened in Germany's past. 


    It is very diffuclt to say why, but for some reason these paintings of war, mixed up with paintings of his family, or mothers and babies are absolutely compelling - and there is a message in them, a truly poetic message. Is it something to do with recreating these images in the stark greys that distances you from them, allows you to try and understand what happenned and why? Why are these photo realistic images so much more compelling to look at than photos?


    Richter throws up question after question and seems to attempt to answer them.


    My favourite painting was probably a large grey abstract made by Richter just putting blobs of paint on a canvas and then covering the canvas up with the paint, not using any decision about how to mic the colours of where to stop and start, other than stopping as soon as the canvas was finished. The result is a beautiful painting with gorgeous gestrual brush marks, but made in a very controlled way - a clever way to sidestep the clutch of moderism but still allowing an artist to make a painting that uses gesture without being held into the past.




    As the exhibition moves on you get to his huge abstract done by dragging paint across the canvas - on some level these should be cheesy money makers, and in the wrong hands they could be, but they aren't. They are beautiful and intriguing - again it's difficult to see what they work so well. (There's an intersting book for sale in the shop called Cage about six of these paintings and it's interesting to see how Richter really works on these pics - they don't just pop out.) It's presuambly something to do with the clarity of his visual ability that allows him to work out when a painting is ready for the outside world.


    But even as he's making these abstracts he's painting photo realistic pictures of his daughter and landscapes and wiping paint on to photos in a compelling fashion.


    The creativity just keeps going on and on and is truly inspirational and uplifting. There's a lot more to this exhibition that I've been able to get through here, but it is really worth going to see.


    Check out Gerhard Richter: 40 Year of Painting you can get it at