Watch German Painter Gerhard Richter Create Abstract Art

The Ger­man painter Ger­hard Richter goes back and  forth between pho­to­re­al­ism and com­plete abstrac­tion. In this film we see the artist in his abstract mode, using a giant squeegee to apply and scrape off suc­ces­sive lay­ers of paint.

In 2008 and 2009 the reclu­sive Richter allowed film­mak­er Corin­na Belz into his stu­dio in Cologne to doc­u­ment the cre­ation of a series of large abstract paint­ings. Belz was ini­tial­ly sur­prised by the num­ber of lay­ers Richter used to cre­ate his decep­tive­ly sim­ple-look­ing works. “Some­times,” she said in an inter­view on her web site, “I looked at a paint­ing and thought: It’s good like this. But then came the next step in the process, and what I had per­ceived as a fin­ished pic­ture would be destroyed before my very eyes; just paint­ed over. It’s not easy when your ‘pro­tag­o­nists’ are con­stant­ly dis­ap­pear­ing.”

Even Richter often does­n’t know when one of his abstract paint­ings will be fin­ished. “It’s very sur­pris­ing often,” he told Tate Mod­ern Direc­tor Nicholas Sero­ta in a filmed inter­view last year, before the open­ing of a major ret­ro­spec­tive of his work. “I’m paint­ing again and again every day and so it seems you will nev­er come to an end, it will nev­er become a good paint­ing, and sud­den­ly it’s fin­ished: ‘Oh, good.’ ”

Belz’s film, Ger­hard Richter Paint­ing, was released in 2011 to crit­i­cal acclaim. Ear­li­er this month an abstract paint­ing by the 80-year-old Richter set a record for the most mon­ey ever paid for a work by a liv­ing artist, bring­ing $34.2 mil­lion at Sothe­by’s in Lon­don.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vin­tage Footage of Picas­so and Jack­son Pol­lock Paint­ing … Through Glass

Anselm Kiefer at Work, Cre­at­ing His “World of Ruina­tion”

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  • Mary Witruk says:

    Inspired by Richter meth­ods of reveal, I aspire to use his method­ol­o­gy of reveal. As i think about stages of my life in abstract terms I will cre­ate lay­ers of paint­ed abstracts and while I have used small­er squee­quees and applied them to sec­tions of a work, I look for­ward to the mul­ti­plic­i­ty of reveals that I will observe, It will be likened to look­ing at my life through an abstract kalei­descope.

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