Gerhard Richter: Panorama at Tate Modern

Recently I visited the Gerhard Richter exhibition, Panorama, at the Tate Modern.

I think it goes without saying that if there is a retrospective show of an artist’s work then the works are probably pretty damn good. I also think that if a major museum is hosting a three month exhibition then the art will also be worth seeing.

And, unsurprisingly, that was just the case with the Richter retrospective coinciding with the artist’s 80th birthday.

I found this show to be a pleasure to view and also very inspiring. From Richter’s innovative use of photography (painting canvases to look like photographs instead of in any particular style of painting), his varying colour palettes and even his installations.

Here are some of the works I was most drawn to.*

4096 Colours (1974) enamel paint on canvas

I was immediately attracted to Richter’s 4096 Colours, most likely because it reminds me of the pixels on the computer screen when I zoom all the way in to correct images in Photoshop. Obviously this was not Richter’s intention, but I think it’s beautiful that this work can have modern day connections.

I love how it feels so out of context and spontaneous with the colours appearing to be random and scattered and yet – it’s actually very organised and precise with a methodology regarding colour creation in conjunction with the grid structure.

The text that accompanies this piece reads:

Whereas Richter’s 1966 colour chart had been based on paint-shop samples, the Colour Charts from the mid 1970s were the outcome of a systematic approach to the creation of colours and their arrangement. Richter started with four colours (the three primary colours and grey) and through a process of combination and subdivision created 1024 colours, from which he made a series of works. In this painting, each of the 1024 colours is repeated four times. The squares are arranged randomly around the grid, and the viewer is  challenged to differentiate close hues.

Mufasa comes back

Tourist (with 2 lions) reminds me of the scene in The Lion King where Mufasa appears in the sky to talk to Simba.

Now, I know this may be a coincidence, but it probably isn’t. The fact is: most animators studied (either in a formal institution or through personal interest) some sort of art at some point. This means that there is an excellent chance that someone in the team responsible for that scene has seen Richter’s painting and used it as inspiration.

And if they hadn’t? Well, that’s a pretty great coincidence!

As well as his paintings, Richter has created wonderful installation pieces and photographs. (None of which are pictured in this post.)

Tourist (with 2 lions) (1975) oil on canvas

Ball III (1992) stainless steel sphere

Simply put: this is a stainless steel sphere on the ground with the title engraved into it. It’s so simple and easy to overlook, but then you start to notice you can see everything around you in it. The ceiling, the floor, the far corners of the room and that guy stealthily picking his nose. And that’s about when the greatness sets in, when you realise that something so simple, so small, can reflect so much and become so complicated.

This is what the Tate wrote to go along with Ball III:

Richter produced a series of stainless steel spheres in the early 1990s, naming each one after a peak in the Engadin Alpine range. Each ball is engraved with this title. Though such objects are rare in Richter’s work, they relate to wider concerns, particularly his interests in reflections and distortions. The ball reflects the entire space around it, warping it to create a strange kind of panorama. The single point perspective of classical painting, retained in Richters Mirror works, collapse here.

11 Panes (2004) glass

11 Panes (2004) glass
This piece makes me look blurry. I love how I look at myself and it’s as though I’ve become one of Richter’s painted photographs – still and in motion at once.

And yes, it’s 11 panes of glass stacked against each other in a rack with a bit of space between each one. It is just that simple and ingenious at once.

Similarly, I loved 6 Panes of Glass in a Rack (2002-11) glass and steel because it made me interact with the space in a new way. There were two tall windows behind it and I could clearly see what’s happening but because this piece was in the way I had to walk around it and consider new ways of moving in the room.

I know that may sound simple, but it felt great to be challenged to think about space in that way.

Overall, I highly recommend visiting this exhibition. And if you’ve already gone – I’d love to know your thoughts!

*I do not own the copyright to any of these images. Instead they are shared in this blog to educate readers about the artist and his works. 

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