GERHARD RICHTER PAINTING
(directed by Corinna Belz, 2011)
***+ (out of 5)
> Though definitely an art kinda guy, I can’t say I really “get” abstract painting. To me, it is meaningless in and of itself. The works in question are objects that only become “art” if I have an emotional reaction- if it pleases my eye and elicits pleasure. Though I enjoy them, I can’t look at a Jackson Pollack or a Sam Francis or a Gerhard Richter and say with any conviction: “THIS is what the painter meant to convey. THIS is what this painting is about.” Abstract art is simply… subjective.
. Having never seen his work before, I would have to agree Gerard Richter is a notable talent. The best of this film pulls back to passively and patiently observe the painter’s process unfold. This is quietly fascinating to watch. But when the intellectuals begin to engage with him their references to things like “truth” in the work, they sound ridiculous to me. A piece of abstract art is good if it’s TRUE? Really? What the hell does “true” mean then? It just baffles me.
. Reputed to be grumpy and antisocial, this is not the man we see interviewed at all. The celebrated artist seems warm and light and present for a fabled German curmudgeon. His technique of applying layers of different color paint and scraping the surface with a piece of plexiglass seems very random, because even the painter doesn’t know what it’s going to look like from moment to moment. But the results are often beautiful- if sometimes a bit minimalist for my tastes.
. One thing I kept wondering: how does the artist know when a piece is finished? As a storyteller, it becomes quite clear in the telling: the story ends when the tale is told- like the punchline in a joke. But Mr. Richter seems to be willing to tinker- to walk away from a painting for a while, returning days or weeks later and try to discern if it’s still “true”, and if not- more paint! More scraping!
. Interesting stuff, if a bit dry and cold for my tastes.
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