During our last visit to Queensland (December 2017) we had the chance to see the vast Gerhard Richter exhibition called ‘The Life of Images‘ at  the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane (GOMA).

What I found really inspiring was the Atlas installation (called Atlas Overview), a part of the exhibition that consisted of a selection of the thousands of photographs and clippings the artist gathered during his six decades as a painter in Germany.

Photography has almost no reality, it is almost one hundred percent picture. And painting always has reality – you can touch the paint, it has presence, it always yields a picture.

Gerhard Richter, 1991

Few artists have examined the relationship between photography, representation and painting as Gerhard Richter has. He has used the medium of painting to test the objectivity of photography, while also using photography to better understand the nature of painting. In other words he paints from photographs but also overpaints photographs and experiments a lot with the representation process and the unique plasticity (or the lack of) of photography.  Some of his paintings look like realistic or out-of-focus photos for example. But we can ask ourselves if they both look the same, why do we call one a painting and the other a photo? This seems obvious of course, because in the ‘posing’ character of these paintings as a photograph they create a sense of objectivity, but in the end we know they will never be photographs because of their plasticity, or what Richter calls ‘Reality’.

Gerhard Richter’s obsession with photography began in the early 1960s when photographic reproduction had become widely accessible through the rise in popularity of the offset printing press and various cheap and easy to use cameras. In West Germany, magazines such as Life, Stern and Der Spiegel were the face of rnodernity and economic progress.

Atlas, Richter’s ongoing, encyclopedic project, like a massive realtime Pinterest board avant-la-lettre, began as an accumulation of press cuttings from popular publications, but was later systematically collated onto standardized sheets of card. This research material played a central role in Richter’s work from the early 1960s, and had photographs from his family pasted alongside cuttings from newspapers and magazines. By the late 1960s, Richter’s own photographs appear more regularly, reflecting the greater accessibility of photography.

New technology, with smaller snapshot cameras gained popularity. Photographs were everywhere, showing representations of art, culture and modern life.

The Atlas work shown at GOMA is only a selection of the over 800 panels that are housed in the Städtische Galerie Im Lenbachhaus in Munich. They have been personally selected and ordered by the artist. It is an artwork in its own right and is exhibited here for the first time.

Interesting also were the form and color studies that are shown alongside the cuttings and photographs. Some of them were used as inspiration for his paintings, others are more like visual stimuli all gathered in one easy to browse catalogue system.

Source: https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/gerhard-richter

 This article shows a personal selection of interests (like Music, Art, Design, People, Technology, Ideas, Books etc) that inspire me.