For almost five decades Gerhard Richter has been one of the world’s most significant artists. The media-shy painter granted filmmaker Corinna Belz access to his studio where he was working on a series of large abstract paintings over six months in the summer of 2009. Gerhard Richter Painting gives us rare insights into the making of these paintings and the work of the artist.
“Painting is another form of thinking,” Richter had said early on. The film takes this premise seriously. In highly concentrated images, we are given a fly-on-the-wall perspective of a very personal, tension-filled process of artistic creation. It is a quiet yet highly charged process of action and reflection, driven by years of experience and shaped by an intense physical presence. We see Richter painting. We see him observe and dialogue with his paintings. We see him contemplate, wait, reject, rework and sometimes destroy only to begin anew.
“Hard to tell. Could be better”, Gerhard Richter remarks on the occasion of the first layer of paint. We are included through his dry comments. They not only reveal insights into life and art but also a laconic humor, deep humanity and his capacity to question himself as much as the events in front and behind the camera. Born in 1932, Richter spent his first thirteen years under National Socialist rule, the next sixteen under the East German Communist regime with its “Socialist Realism” art, followed by nearly half a century of "Capitalist Realism" in the West. Richter’s personal history has left him with a fundamental skepticism of institutionalized belief systems and ideologies.
“I want to know what’s going on” he once gave as a reason for his painting. Richter is always searching for new perspectives testing the image of the world, which lights up at the end of each painting.
The film shows the artist with his assistants Norbert Arns and Hubert Becker preparing exhibitions in Cologne, London and New York as well as during his work encounters with his New York Gallerist Marian Goodman and the Art Historian Benjamin H.D. Buchloh.
At the center, however, is the dialogue with the paintings. In giving us the opportunity to participate as viewers, Corinna Belz’s intelligent and perceptive film brings us closer to the complex processes of artistic creation. Our perceptions expand. The paintings themselves become the protagonists. We experience another form of thinking. GERHARD RICHTER PAINTING is the penetrating portrait of an artist at work – and a fascinating film about the art of seeing.
This film is part of a series in collaboration with the Strand Theatre in Rockland presented monthly on first Fridays focusing on artists and the visual arts, with a brief discussion following the film. Tickets are $7 members, $8.50 nonmembers and are for sale at the Strand box office prior to film. For more information please call the Education Department at 207-596-0949 or visit the museum’s website at www.farnsworthmuseum.org/education.