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When we describe a process, or make out an invoice, or photograph a tree, we create models; without them we would know nothing of reality and would be animals. Abstract pictures are fictive models, because they make visible a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but whose existence we can postulate.

Text for catalogue of documenta 7, Kassel, 1982, 1982 QUELLE

When I paint an abstract picture (the problem is very much the same in other cases), I neither know in advance what it is meant to look like nor, during the painting process, what I am aiming at and what to do about getting there. Painting is consequently an almost blind, desperate effort, like that of a person abandoned, helpless, in totally incomprehensible surroundings – like that of a person who possesses a given set of tools, materials and abilities and has the urgent desire to build something useful which is not allowed to be a house or a chair or anything else that has a name; who therefore hacks away in the vague hope that by working in a proper, professional way he will ultimately turn out something proper and meaningful.

Notes, 1985, 1985 QUELLE

The abstract pictures are no less arbitrary than all object-bound representations (based on any old motif, which is supposed to turn into a picture). The only difference is that in these the 'motif' evolves only during the process of painting. So they imply that I do not know what I want to represent, or how to begin; that I have only highly imprecise and invariably false ideas of the motif that I am to make into a picture; and therefore that – motivated as I am solely by ignorance and frivolity – I am in a position to start. (The 'solely' stands for life!)

Notes, 1985, 1985 QUELLE

Sometimes your abstract paintings give the impression of a landscape. Are you looking for realism again in abstraction?
I believe I am looking for rightness. My work has so much to do with reality that I wanted to have a corresponding rightness. That excludes painting in imitation. In nature everything is always right: the structure is right, the proportions are good, the colours fit the forms. If you imitate that in painting, it becomes false.

Interview with Anna Tilroe, 1987, 1987 QUELLE

In 1976 you began to paint abstract pictures, because you wanted something that you couldn't visualize in advance. In doing so, you invented a method that was absolutely new to you. Was that an experiment of some kind?
Yes. I began in 1976, with small abstract paintings that allowed me to do what I had never let myself do: put something down at random. And then, of course, I realized that it never can be random. It was all a way of opening a door for me. If I don't know what's coming – that is, if I have no hard-and-fast image, as I have with a photographic original – then arbitrary choice and chance play an important part.

Interview with Sabine Schütz, 1990, 1990 QUELLE

Do you often abandon abstract paintings?
Yes, I alter them much more often than the representational ones. They often turn out completely different to what I'd planned.

I Have Nothing to Say and I'm Saying it, Conversation between Gerhard Richter and Nicholas Serota, Spring 2011, 2011 QUELLE

So you begin with an idea in your head about a feeling you want to create in a particular painting? How do you begin the abstract paintings?
Well, the beginning is actually quite easy, because I can still be quite free about the way I handle things – colours, shapes. And so a picture emerges that may look quite good for a while, so airy and colourful and new. But that will only last for a day at most, at which point it starts to look cheap and fake. And then the real work begins – changing, eradicating, starting again, and so on, until it's done.

I Have Nothing to Say and I'm Saying it, Conversation between Gerhard Richter and Nicholas Serota, Spring 2011, 2011 QUELLE

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