Talk about painting: there's no point. By conveying a thing through the medium of language, you change it. You construct qualities that can be said, and you leave out the ones that can't be said but are always the most important.
How did you come to adopt this objective way of painting?
I think everybody starts out by seeing a few works of art and wanting to do something like them. You want to understand what you see, what is there, and you try to make a picture out of it. Later you realize that you can't represent reality at all – that what you make represents nothing but itself, and therefore is itself reality.
One has to believe in what one is doing, one has to commit oneself inwardly, in order to do painting. Once obsessed, one ultimately carries it to the point of believing that one might change human beings through painting. But if one lacks passionate commitment, there is nothing left to do. Then it is best to leave it alone. For basically painting is total idiocy.
Is speaking of the relationship between painting and reality a false problem in your eyes? Do you feel that painting has its own reality?
Experience has proved that there is no difference between a so-called realist painting – of a landscape, for example – and an abstract painting. They both have more or less the same effect on the observer.
I don't believe in the reality of painting, so I use different styles like clothes: it's a way to disguise myself.
Painting is the making of an analogy for something non-visual and incomprehensible – giving it form and bringing it within reach. And that is why good paintings are incomprehensible. Creating the incomprehensible has absolutely nothing to do with turning out any old bunkum, because bunkum is always comprehensible.
Painting concerns itself, as no other art does, exclusively with semblance (I include photography, of course).
The painter sees the semblance of things and repeats it. That is, without fabricating the things himself, he fabricates their semblance; and, if that no longer recalls any object, this artificially produced semblance functions only because it is scrutinized for likeness to a familiar – that is, object-related – semblance.
Painting is traditional but for me that doesn't mean the academy. I felt a need to paint; I love painting. It was something natural – as is listening to music or playing an instrument for some people. For this reason I searched for themes of my era and my generation. Photography offered this, so I chose it as a medium for painting.
But I have a problem with the term 'light'. I never in my life knew what to do with that. I know that people have mentioned on some occasions that 'Richter is all about light', and that 'the paintings have a special light', and I never knew what they were talking about. I was never interested in light. Light is there and you turn it on or you turn it off, with sun or without sun. I don't know what the 'problematic of light' is. I take it as a metaphor for a different quality, which is similarly difficult to describe. Good.