Gerhard Richter – Having Fun
Richter’s abstract and photo realist paintings, which I’ve sought out in various important galleries, upmostly reveal his ability to travel through different styles, independent of the latest trends in the art world. He is a well-respected artist and in a recent Vanity Fair magazine, was even voted one of the six top living artists of his time along with John Baldessari and Jasper Johns. He is also one of my favourite contemporary artists.
I recently saw the documentary “Gerhard Richter, Painting” by Corinna Belz, on Netflix. Throughout the movie I grew to admire him even more, thinking he reminded me of my late grandfather, a Mennonite. His steadfastness and truthfulness to his own vision struck me. There wasn’t any art speak in the movie, but rather just the unveiling of a picture of the painter’s life. This sense of authenticity is carried through by real-time shots of his uncluttered, modern studio, with large walls to accommodate canvas’ much larger than the painter himself. There was a table on wheels in the middle of the room that held all his paint equipment – in the movie he used mostly giant squeegies and the odd butcher knife as paint tools. It was quiet. All attention was on Richter, the sound of his footsteps, his movements and his pauses as he considered his next moves.
It was also interesting to witness some of the day to day business behind an artist of this caliber. He has two assistants and a secretary/administrator. Future exhibitions were carefully laid out ahead of time using perfectly constructed maquettes of the galleries (such as the Tate in London) and his assistants moved little miniature Richter paintings around to figure out the best layout. At one of his exhibition openings, the inevitable publicity Richter attracted was welcome by him to a point – it also seemed like an annoying aspect to his career he had to endure.
Richter’s main goal in life seems to be simply having the time to paint. It was very striking that for a internationally respected and acclaimed artist, with regular solo exhibitions in the top galleries in the US and Europe, that so little seemed to need to be discussed. In fact the last line that Richter says in the movie, as the camera pans across the white expanse of his studio, full of immense textured white paintings he is working on is: “Man, this is fun” – a statement that made me smile. It was a simple way to express the power of connecting with that pure sense of enjoyment, which makes us fully engaged and gives us our best work.