Abstract Paintings

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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 SOURCE

Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p. 121


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 SOURCE

Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p. 142


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 SOURCE

Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p. 144


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 SOURCE

Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p. 198


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 SOURCE

Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p. 256


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 SOURCE

Gerhard Richter. Panorama. A Retrospective, Tate Publishing, London, 2011, p. 17


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 SOURCE

Gerhard Richter. Panorama. A Retrospective, Tate Publishing, London, 2011, p. 17


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