In this three-part after hours lecture series, hear from experts and curators as they highlight an aspect of Richter’s complex practice.
‘I’m not trying to imitate a photograph; I’m trying to make one. And if I disregard the assumption that a photograph is a piece of paper exposed to light, then I am practicing photography by other means.’ Gerhard Richter, 1972
In this instalment, exhibition curator Dr Rosemary Hawker looks at both figurative and abstract aspects of ‘Gerhard Richter: The Life of Images,’ to examine how the artist makes a sustained and persuasive visual argument for a broader and more meaningful conception of the ‘photographic’ as functioning outside the medium of photography.
Dr Rosemary Hawker is Senior Lecturer in Art Theory, Fine Art, at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, and the inaugural Chair of the Brisbane Consortium for the Visual Arts. Her research centres on the art of Gerhard Richter; her doctorate, entitled Blur: Gerhard Richter and the photographic in painting, was awarded by The University of Queensland in 2007. Rosemary contributes to the visual arts as an academic, critic and public speaker, and writes regularly forjournals, including the Oxford Art Journal, History of Photography and the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art. In 2011, she was invited to speak at the Panorama: New Perspectives on Richter symposium at Tate Modern, London, as part of their major retrospective of the artist’s work.
‘Gerhard Richter: The Life of Images’ / Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Australia / 14 Oct 2017 – 4 Feb 2018
thanks very much Sophie the reason I'm talking about photography tonight is something that Sophie's already alluded to that's that it is the aspect of rictus work that drew me towards him in the first instance it's certainly the thing that made me curious from the outset and as suggested I went on to do further research and a PhD on the topic and I'd finished my PhD in 2007 and came to the gallery in 2012 with the idea of the exhibition so this is now some five years later coming to fruition in the life of images so it seems like a very long slow sort of process but it also seems very exciting to be at this point now and to be able to talk to you tonight referring to works that we have in the exhibition space just nearby and that we can see in the flesh which for a very long time with my work on Richter was not possible in that I was looking at things that were in reproduction when I got I suppose by the time I'd got to the end of the PhD it became more and more apparent to me that to talk about Richards work you needed to talk about abstraction and figuration and the real realist figurative aspects of the work and to try and find some way to bring them together even though those two are normally poles apart in art it normally seem to be forms of art or artistic expressions where artists take a particular make a particular choice and they remain with that choice across their career or move from one to the other and then not back again so this is a really striking aspect of Richter's work and it's one of the things that I'm pleased that we've been able to maintain in the exhibition here they're both figurative and abstract in styles and despite this idea of the opposition they really seem to brought together by Richter in such a ways that he's insisting upon their relationship in some way I'm having trouble reading the screen because it's so blurry from the light athlete but I've got a fallback position which might make things a little bit bit easier so thinking about the relationship between figuration and abstraction in Richter's were one of the things that we have to remind ourselves of it is that he never leaves figuration behind for abstraction or vice-versa even though since the 1970s his work has been largely abstract rather than figurative and did my Elgar who is the director of Richards archive who was recently in Brisbane for the exhibition opening he was asked well how much of Rich's work is abstract do you think across the entire curve and he's very well placed to judge this and he said probably around about sixty percent but that takes into account the fact that there is so much addition work that's based upon the figurative Thoreau paintings so when we think only about paintings then we're probably thinking of upwards of about seventy percent so despite this this idea about never remaining with one rather than the other or never moving away from figuration towards abstraction is really easy to see in works like Ella which has obviously had a very prominent place in our exhibition in its promotion and even looking at just a series of works that are produced in the same year as Ella it's really evident that Richter never really settles to figuration or abstraction he's constantly moving back words and forwards across these so it seems absolutely essential to try and find a way to think about these apparently very different aspects of his earth and these two works of Richter's that I saw in actuality so prior to seeing these works in about 93 I've only seen reproduced images by Richter and I was really struck by them because I came to them from a background in photo history in theory more than a background in in painting or a broader historical background so my looking at there was very much in terms of somebody who had this interest in photography both conceptually and historically I found the works strangely affecting but I also found the works quite frankly irritating because I felt that I was being manipulated by them in some way and yet I couldn't figure out how that was actually coming about apart I had this really strong sense that there was an emotional effect that the artist was was moving towards through this photographic appearance and in particularly the blurred nature of that appearance but aside from those questions and I guess curiosity it pushed me not just into the photographic elements of Richter's work but to look at his his art more broadly and of course anybody who does that is completely confounded by the extraordinary diversity that exists in his practice we moved from these large scales sculptural installations and none of them could be more monumental than eight gray to what a more digitally manipulated and printed images based on earlier abstract paintings as in the strip work that's in our exhibition and to even more extreme engagements with photography through painting with a relationship between abstraction and realism seems to become even more apparent in a work such as two fits and then with a work like meadowland also in our exhibition there seems to be this unashamed pursuit of beauty in art it's almost like a type of nostalgia for art historical genres but these genres in this case revisited through photography and then again these abstract canvasses that seem to do violence to paint and yet to arrive at surfaces that we never tire of looking at and yet and I think this is a curious aspect to the abstracts we never recall these works in detail so there's something about this opposition between the thoroughly recognizable photorealist figurative works and the abstract works and Richter's figurative works are often described as iconic in a thoroughly recognizable some thoroughly recallable and indeed as images they have this extraordinary power to sort of remain with us over time and yet at the same time his abstract works which he describes as being about his reality and it is experience much more directly are ones that as much as they engages it's very hard to take them away with us when when we walk away so thinking again I like pushing this question about how do you think about abstraction and figuration in Richter's work how they're connected sometimes this connection is really obvious and there's probably no better example of this then the townscape Paris that's in the exhibition and looking at that work from a distance as you enter the second room of the show you see the recognisable Boulevard layout of Paris and buildings and yet as you move closer to the work the form of the work dissolves and what you're left with is this mass of paint sort of twisting and weaving paint and when you're really close to that canvas it's almost hard to imagine that you thought that you saw Paris you know back at the door it really just seems to have become the sheer physical sort of mass of paint on the surface of the work and it also seems to be a work that's incredibly carelessly put together you know an energetic work but also something that's not particularly labored and it's interesting in that second room of the show that you see so many ridges different modes being played out in terms of how to paint and how to how to be a painter across various sort of explorations of paint on surface and then there's I think there's an another very under explored aspect of Rich's work which is in things like the under glass paintings and the tapestries and here and in other works that we see or other images that we see in Atlas there's this really strong connection to what we might think of as a natural figuration or the figure as found in nature so here I'm talking about the sorts of marks and forms of nature that it's said to be a human trait for us to search for the faces and the familiar forms that we might see in the patterns in stone or or in clouds and these images are also ones that connect us back to Richter's other works in the in terms of their process so this is a curious aspect about them in that they are supposedly you know singular images that have their own catalogue raisonné numbers and so on but they come from the stuff of paint from the abstracts in the case of the under glass paintings that's made from paint that comes off the big squeegees for the big squeegee works and in the case of the tapestries a tiny little sliver of detail from an abstract painting that's then digitally manipulated to produce these extraordinary russia blot like patterns now similarly I think you can talk about Richter squeegees abstract in abstracts in this way in that they also manage to suggest almost something that's almost appearing or something that's just having disappeared from view and they've been described as being like video screens where the signal is somehow other interrupted and the image is popping and flaring on the screen before it settles back down into place one thing that I think it's worth noting noticing about the abstracts in relation to the figurative works is that the blood smeared paint here is the same type of blood smear paint as we find in some of the figurative works it's the same stuff it's it's produced in a way that's not necessarily exactly the same some with brush some with squeegee but we're really looking at the same types of marks that are occupying both the abstract and the figurative works but of course they produce very different images and they have very different signification across those uses so eventually this research of mine focused on the relationship between painting and photography in terms of what it could tell us about medium relations in art because that's the thing that I found most revealing about it it was also an investigation that tried to go back to that first effective response that I had that first sort of emotional uptake with those works and to try and figure out what on earth that was based in and was that also something that could tell me more about medium so for me the answer to these questions is found in a concept that I've termed the photograph pick and it's a it's a useful term but it's also a little bit awkward in that it is of course so close to photography but I'm wanting with that term to mark out something that's a broader conception than photography as medium and discipline and I got to that concept through thinking about a very famous statement that Richter makes himself so he says I'm not trying to imitate a photograph I'm trying to make one and if I disregard the assumption that a photograph is a piece of paper exposed to light then I'm practicing photography by other means so here I would draw some attention to the opposition of imitating a photograph and making a photograph and also this idea of practicing photography by other means that statements been treated as being thoroughly rhetorical by most commentators and what I used it to do was to question whether that was at all possible so rather than seeing it as rhetorical take it quite seriously and ask the question of what it was that Richter was referring to in making that claim and approaching the photographic as I'm calling it allows me to show photography within this equation not just as a medium or a discipline but also as a set of issues and that was something that made sense to me in terms of my background in in photo history and theory but this question of what I mean by the photographic needs a little bit of setting up so before I get to that I'm going to go through some of the more straight forward sometimes more straightforward than others but some of the more obvious ways in which Richter's work has engaged with photography now the most persistent discussion of the work in the literature around these terms is in relation to the photo paintings not surprisingly they're very well represented and for many people they don't move on from the photo paintings in this consideration of Rich's relationship between photography and painting but let's remember that these images do come directly from photographic source images that they adhere to the formal organization of the photograph and they also maintain something of its matter-of-fact realism and Richter himself underlines those connections by labeling them photo paintings or photo pictures and he also paints works such as this in black and white the colors of photographic reportage and and historical record and all of that's consistent with Richter certainly not wanting to hide the connection to photography news work rather take advantage of that connection and spell it out quite emphatically for us now in our exhibition the Atlas work that occupies that long room the spine of the whole show is really reinforcing the place of that particular work with in Richter's practice and you'll see it dated from 1962 and that work continues through to the present and this is the most direct engagement that Richter has or in the most sustained engagement that he has with photography as an object it's comprised of photographs that he's collected since the 60s and they come from quite diverse sources from magazines calendars encyclopedias snapshots and drawings and so on and within the pages of Atlas you'll also see works that or images that have become paintings in their own right and in our exhibition you can see the tulips that are in the last room of the show and also the image that's the source image for the self-portrait that we have in the exhibition so it's easy to understand Atlas within that context as being a type of visual diary for the artist but it's more than this in that it's impossible to imagine Richter producing images from all of the images that make up atlas in its entirety there are over 800 panels and thousands and thousands of images on those individual panels more usefully I think it's been described as a chronicle of the image in the 20th and 21st centuries and tellingly when we look at Atlas even in our Atlas overview version of the network we see the dominance of photography we see that photography really has defined the image across the last across the last two centuries now the other thing that's perhaps less known about Richter is that some of his works are more straightforwardly photographic so this is a photograph it's made up of 128 images that are photographs taken of the surface of an abstract work these are not however what would normally be understood as details you couldn't assemble reassemble these photographs and find the the abstract they're because they're taken from quite oblique angles and from various different distances and that what they're addressing is the surface of the abstract work the actual appearance of the paint on the surface rather than any sort of image value that that abstract work has so there's nothing here that's about recognizing the abstract in that documentary sense but it is still a document of this particular abstract painting and this is underlined again in the fact that it's painted in black and white the stock-in-trade of documentary photography and of course also through the arrangement of these photographs in this systematic modernist grid all of these point to this sort of documentary quality curiously this is a work that you could understand as being about the celebration of facture the surface of the work the fact that it's got ton the texture that it has some sort of surface to it that undulates and so on that the tactility of the surface if you feel if you like and the reality of paint as stuff on that surface yet ironically that celebration relies on photography which has been you know always understood as being thoroughly factual is that its surface is so smooth and has no sort of delineation on it and there's this relative sense of a lack of physical reality in photography circuit surface as opposed to the surface of painting now another curious aspect of Richter's practice that that may not first seem to be about photography but but it is in a number of different ways is the way in which he takes photographs of paintings in order to make new paintings so this is a painting that is based on a photographic detail of an earlier painting so another abstract from the previous year and if you look closely there you can spy the detail or just off-center at the top of the image just off to the right slightly is that red dot so in this sense the taking the detail from the 1976 abstract is like treating that abstract as an environment perhaps even as some sort of landscape if we can think about that analogy and through this process of reproducing that detail as a painting paintings suddenly become multiple through a series of reproductive acts so first there's this idea of the photograph as a photographic reproduction and then second there's the details of that already-existing larger view and finally there are the painted reproductions of the parts of that image organized according to a photographic view so we we see this fragment of that earlier abstract according to this metonymic aspect of photography's function so the abstract is no longer one image it's able to yield many images in each of these can be understood as both complete and in and of itself so it's an odd thing where a painting which we you know the whole definition of painting is to think about the painting as singular and unrepeatable but here it becomes multiple and of course in becoming multiple it becomes something that's much more like a photograph which is predicated on multiplicity and another sort of pretty fabulous example of this of a similar sort of process is this enormous gestural painting called streak or sometimes called stroke from 1980 which is based on photographs of a much smaller painting that's then enlarged and extended across a 10 meter canvas so you know Richter is working with earlier images with the aid of photography to produce other paintings is also part of this connection with photography no not all of Richter's works make use of photography in quite so mediated away and sometimes works such as mr are simply photographic versions of a painting so this is a CBI chrome photograph that comes to us from the art gallery of New South Wales so these are works that are single images that through direct photographic documents of that original painting have been turned into what richter calls addition to works and but he insists that these are works in and of themselves and he gives them edition catalogue raisonné numbers and through this process he talks about the way that he's not interested in hierarchical distinctions between originals and copies but rather in emphasizing the quality of an image as opposed to an images status according to the medium in which it's produced now perhaps a much less likely connection to photography is found in his grey paintings and also in mirror and Glass Works and I turned to a comment that comes from the contemporary German photographer Thomas Struth who says I still find it striking that all of Richter's work is related to photography imagine his series of grey paintings a sheets of accidentally exposed photographic paper or think of the parallels between his abstractions and Manresa experiments now I'll come back to the comment about the abstracts but first let us consider the grey paintings and the mirror works a little bit more closely now rich has made a great many of the grey paintings mirror works and glass works across his career the glass work that you see there on the right-hand side is actually one of the mirror paintings made by painting gray onto the back of a sheet of glass and he doesn't they're not always great but they're always monochrome so red green blue and so on black and they're exhibited in such a way that they almost inevitably reflect the space that they're shown in and also that the viewer as the viewer engages with them and gray and the mirroring and reflection are really important to Richter in a whole range of different ways and we've tried to suggest some of these in the book in a room of our exhibition if those of you have seen that but let me just talk a little bit more about what he thinks about gray particularly given what Thomas truth is saying he says that it acts like a metaphor for the problems of painting he says all that interests me are the gray areas the passages internal sequences the pictorial spaces overlapping Xand interlockings so if like strewth we see those blank gray rectangles as accidentally exposed photographic paper then they can also be understood as both empty of visual information accidentally exposed so not producing a photographic image but also full of visual information in the way that Richter's gray canvasses or mirror works are full of visual information because they are so thoroughly exposed evenly across their surface and thinking again about photography's conventional claims to realism and the connection to the real Richter's statements about gray to me he says it's about absence of opinion nothing neither nor it was also a means for manifesting my own relationship with apparent reality I didn't want to say this is thus and not otherwise and then perhaps I didn't want people to confuse the pictures with reality he goes on it's in conspicuousness is precisely what makes it so fit to mediate to represent us through an illusion like a photograph more than any other color gray can portray nothingness for me gray is the only possible and desirable answer to lack of message and Richter's mirror glass works and particularly this work which is discussed a great deal in terms of the grey works and the glass mirror works it's four panes of glass they're all what they all have in common is this sense of dealing with reflective surfaces and the seamlessness of the photographic surface when we start to make this connection with photography and across all of those examples we've also got that connection further embedded by the fact that photography across its history has consistently been described and considered as being a mirror or a window onto the world and the way that it's been analyzed and interpreted has often moved between those two poles you know does does it reflect or does it frame a view and there are certain conceptual things sort of that spring from that and of course four panes of glass does both those things it reflects and it frames the the view so all of these works address this idea of the surface and they address that surface so precisely that we made to think very particular things about materiality and the shift between photography painting and reflective surfaces such as glass but Richter betrays a type of frustration when about these works when he writes perhaps the surface pictures the panes of glass etc a metaphors of despair prompted by the dilemma that our sense of sight causes us to apprehend things but at the same time restricts and partly precludes our apprehension of reality so Richter is I mean these are just a few examples of Richter sort of musing upon this idea of what it is to understand reality what it is to refer to reality in his work and also how to deal with the expectation of that reference to reality that that comes from audiences back to the work he's very he's I mean it's an understatement to say it he's a very self-reflective artist he's always thinking about those sorts of conceptual issues for the work so in some ways it's rather charming that the work that he identifies has been getting closest to what he's trying to achieve within his art is also the most literal sort of bringing together an abstraction and figuration and he calls these works the over-painted works and in this one which is a little bit more ambitious as a work it's a larger photograph and it's a more artful photograph in terms of that multiple images of the artist but you can see the gobs of paint that appear on the surface they're more obvious still in these other much smaller snapshot images that are also typical of the over paintings where you see images of his children the first two and then his wife in the third image and in all of those cases you see the actual stuff of paint that's been applied onto those snapshot images and Richter says of this he says that painting yields a picture this yielding is a process of work and effort whereas the photograph asserts its status as picture automatically and effortlessly and with that sort of commentary he starts to muse on what it is about these two different registers of reality that he's brought together in the over paintings so the the images show portraits such as these but they can also show landscapes and interiors and the paint is literally applied very directly so when we see this in reproduction it's not nearly as arresting as if you look at the works in the show they're tiny but when you see that the paint on on the surface in the actual space that seems much more dramatic than it does in any sort of reproduction and Richter again says photography has almost no reality it's almost 100 percent picture and painting always has reality you can touch the paint it has a presence but it always yields a picture no matter good or bad so here there's this push and pull with the physical with the materiality of paint and the lack of materiality of the photograph a distinction that's being made between what exists in actuality in stuff in the stuff of paint and what we believe to be the real so automatically when we look at a photograph and Richter's really drawing our attention to just how insubstantial a photograph is as that piece of paper exposed to light compared to the way that that paint functions so III think that when Richter says that in these works he comes closest to achieving what he's trying to address in his art you know broader sense then he really is pleased about the direct and literal articulation of this ongoing investigation of the dimensionality of the works and also the materiality of each medium and also just as in other instances that I've shown tonight this paint that appears here appears as a type of blur as something that interrupts or intrudes upon the photograph and changes the relationships that we see within the image as a result and that's something that I'll come back to later so across all of these works that I've been showing you there are these many different connections to photography different degrees of technical dependence on the medium towards very different conceptual ends and as a result obviously quite diverse visual effects and perhaps as many commentators say this all Springs from the photo paintings but whether that's the case or not these connections with photography are found across Rick deserve so what is it about the photographic that I want to say that is going beyond general ideas about photography and the photograph for me two fields is the perfect expression of some of these ideas it's probably one of my one of the works by Richter that's still kind of I still reverie time that I see it I've see it in a way that it still seems very fresh and new and very also contains an element of humor which I think has been part of Richter's work at a number of moments so this these two two fields are painted from a detail from an advertisement for chocolate and the in the rest of that image that you see in the source image you see a handsome young couple standing by the side of the road you know stopping for a break in order to share some some chocolate and to refresh themselves on their journey and in the background of course the excitement of a motorway and cars speeding past and it's that little fragment of that speeding those speeding automobiles that Richter picks up on and I love the way in this painting it's as if those cars are suspended you know like an insect in a speck or something like that there's a famous photograph by logic that's called speeding automobile which in the early days of photography could only appear as distorted because the camera apparatus wasn't up to the representation but in this image we don't even have the distortion of the tires of the car as we do in Latika we have no tires at all it's as if these are sort of hovercraft moving through space and at the same time it's identifiable recognizable even though it's completely distorted and abstracted and when I see this image then I think just as I do with the over paintings that it is this drawing together of abstraction and in figuration like Paris townscape but I think a more acute version of that and also like the over paintings but that said we shouldn't forget that Richter is not the first person to address these ideas of obscurity making images diffuse and using things like the photographic blur as a strategy to produce images and I just for the moment want to go back over a couple of examples from art history and I'm not suggesting that the blur is the same thing across these at all it's different but I'm wanting to draw your attention to the fact that at different times artists have looked at different degrees of clarity and lack of clarity as a mechanism for making art that is able to engage and affect in a very direct way so the first of these comes from Frangelico and a famous fresco called nollie midtown direct and I'm going to come back to it later because I'm picking up on a lovely discussion of this work that comes from the French writer Didier boom Georgie Duberman and the thing that he identifies here is how odd it is to see these blotches of red paint in a work that is otherwise extraordinarily realist figurative very conventional and he identifies the fact that these red blobs and blotches seem out of place and there's something going on there that's thoroughly disconcerting but also somebody like Leonardo is famous for his hamato effect which was atmospheric but relies on this visual ambiguity that is supposedly able to draw the viewer into considering the work in a way that's much more open where they have to do some work of interpretation rather than having everything made clear for them in the image and this example which I love which is come from Vermeer and Vermeer if you like me I've always imagined Vermeer to be all about detailed observation this sort of very precise representation and that's underscored by the fact that we see it all in this very you know intense light as if everything is clear and exposed but when you look into something as famous as the lacemaker and you look at the thread that the lace maker is actually working it appears on that canvas just like these big globs of formless paint which i think is extraordinary considering its thread no thread is all about lines in and obviously elsewhere where you see the the bobbins at work then you see the artist making use of that but in that massive third there it's just like pure paint it's like going back to those gobs of paint on the top of the over paintings or indeed someone like Turner whose paintings are traditionally representational yet predict or perhaps call on Impressionism and maybe even the the high abstraction that wouldn't be identified and celebrated until the following century but in the context of Turner's times these paintings are across very daring but not so daring that somebody as conservative as John Ruskin didn't observe them that how extraordinary precise they were of their render in their rendering of appearances and he says who describes this precision in terms of a perceptual bewilderment that must he said precede clarity of sight and again that reminds me a lot of what I'm interested in in this movement between what is seemingly thoroughly resolved realist figuration but coming up against something that is disturbingly abstract and potentially disruptive within the image so there it is in relation to somebody like Turner in the 19th century a little closer to our time and you can see this is a sort of a bit of a I'm sort of cherry-picking across history – and hopping to somebody that's a little closer to our times and also post photography with Francis Bacon and Bacon's smeared a figure connects us again to that movement blur that we saw in Richter's – fields it's something that we know from photography and we think about movement blur in relation to photography because that's how we learned about it and I think Bacon's work also refers to some of the multiple rapid views that are available to us through photography as if slightly different images maybe from a contact sheet or a strip of negatives have been placed one on top of the others and of course painting after photography this connection to the medium is very automatic much more automatic than it is in terms of this broadest conception of the Fatah of the photographic that I'm referring to before the invention of photography with people like Frangelico and so on but Bacon himself actually denied using photography as source images but there's plenty of evidence that that he indeed did and I also shouldn't forget in this historical sort of overview photography itself and the first movement in photographic art was called pictorial and for the pictorialist s– there was an extraordinary heated debate about the degrees of clarity that were appropriate to photography and also the relationship between that clarity or lack of clarity and human perception so how close was the appearance of the photograph to the way that that our eyes saw and those debates are still with photography today to a certain extent but in a different sort of context at a different configuration so in art history these diverse yet persistent and skewering strategies disrupt the work in various ways or perhaps with whole parts of a work from the viewer and as a result those works are open to a degree of ambiguity which allows for a more heart and interpretation or more space for interpretation and importantly that we start to move towards an idea of recognizing something or knowing something not just in terms of what is seen but also through what we know and recognize through experience sensation effect and so on so an idea about the communication of the visual arts that isn't just based in what is visual that also has this huge debt to what we understand because it's not visible and not seen and that's one of the the things that I think that that Richter is able to help us with a great deal through the way that he uses photography in the way that he uses the photographic blue one of the things about this blurring in photography that is quite paradoxical is the sense in which it proves to us that something existed in real time real space or at least we we allow it to evidence that for us so when we look at this portrait of Richter we have a greater sense of its accuracy in its ability to to tell us something about Rick to the man because we recognize its debts to photography and it's actually the way in which the image is not clear that makes the connection to photography strong it's as if we look at a we might look at a group of people who are photographed together and somebody's moving so somebody is you know forever not in focus and it's that limitation of the photograph the thing that's miss the thing that's not clear that reminds us straightaway that it is a photograph and that it is so so anchored in the real as a result of that so these causal connections to a physical reality that photography has always been discussed in terms of and their connections that go beyond simply the appearance of something and that something looks like something else so there's a stronger causal relationship that's played out so let me go back now to that statement from Richter and thinking about what he means to be making a photograph not imitating one practicing photography by other means when I look at the IG portraits they also remind me that this connection I think of as being so often about the limitations the shortfalls of photography that Richter picks up on these things it's not just about photographic Bloor and obviously it's also about things like under an overexposure and how an excess of something like visual information an excess of light can reduce what we see within an image so the OGIS back in this case becomes this sort of white expanse because of overexposure or that shadow effect that exists between her and the wall that she stands in front of is all the more heartened because of the relationships but played out in the depth of field that change that shadow into this almost like a second person standing there it also is a mechanism that opens up the space between the figure and the ground that it's standing in and suggest some sort of gap between those two spaces let me go back to Frangelico and to talk a little bit about the discussion that I alluded to from George City uberman and to draw out one more step if you like in this account of what it is for figuration and abstraction to be working together within one image now within this fresco it's worth knowing that it its physical context is in a monk's cell at San Marco in France and that cell is a very small space tiny not such a great photograph of it on the right-hand side because of the limitations of photography but big enough for a bed big enough for a small desk and nothing else and these cells and their frescoes were designed for contemplation so a monk would be assigned to a cell because in that cell was a particular episode of the biblical narrative that it was deemed that monk needed to consider and reflect upon so in this case we have the the image of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane with Mary Magdalene and the title of the work roughly translates to please don't touch me so there's also this some physical connection within the work as well the idea of the touch feels physicality and causality that is part of the aspects of photography that I've been picking up on now getting a little closer to what it is that Didier Berman sees here he talks about these red blotches being out of place in a work of the Quattrocento a work that is otherwise figuratively faithful and realist and just you sort of have to get in fairly close to be able to see them but this is what he says about those blotches that you see there he says they're disconcerting things difficult to describe and extremely peculiar within the severe whiteness of the convent where blotches of paint large zones of multicolored blotches in the face of which all our usual categories of subject imitation and a figure seemed to be inadequate for it all seemed to be utterly subject las' to imitate nothing in particular and to be in the end strangely non-figurative for the period so he's referring there to the fact that these red blotches which take different forms somehow or other out of place they don't work in the same visual schema as the rest of the the fresco he says that that's not to say while they are they make some sort of strange sense that they make no not no sense at all very directly they are literally like an index of blood like drops of blood and as red circles that fall on Christ's feet or hands they're stigmata and as tightly clustered groups of five they're also the biblical symbolic sign of Christ's passion so they work in all of these ways and he goes on to say that what he sees in these blotches is decembe once so this decembe once he's setting up as in opposition to resemblance things that we recognize through their appearance he says decembe once by marring the aspect by forbidding strict representational definitions opened up the image to the play of associations so this highly conscious act on the paint is part strangely increases the distance between the subject of the fresco and its rendering in paint but paradoxically according to Didier Berman this actually brings the subject closer to the viewer and that's because the subject is unrepresentable so in the story of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane the the Christ figure is impossible to represent because if we represent the Christ figure the only way we can do it is with what we have what we are already familiar with and what we can recognize and yet the whole point of God of Christ God is to be so thoroughly otherworldly as to beyond what we could know so those of faith have this sense of alluding to the Christ figure but not actually representing the Christ figure so for Didier Berman this is the genius of what fra angelico does with these crazy red blotches he upsets the system a visual representation in order to remind us about that disjunction between what is shown what it is that is felt by the faithful it's important he says that the image rests upon what can not be seen and figurative representation is always about what can be seen and as that quotation suggests here then he says was a type of painting that sort presence before representation and that's also the sort of quality and characteristic that I'm interested in getting to with Gerhard Richter that there's this mechanism by which the viewer through is returned to the simple fact of paint within an image just as here with these red blotches it opens up our work in a way that's really quite extraordinary considering that it's the most ambiguous and the least ambiguous aspect of the work and we could also say the most ambitious and the least ambitious aspect of the work that is at the center of how it's able to communicate so the paradox here is that this force of the image is located not in what we were able to recognize but or even to name necessarily to find a way of describing adequately but according to what is unfamiliar and unnameable those blotches blurs in the case of Richter that imitate nothing but that take us into this other register of experience of the work so des semblance for me and I'm skipping across Didier Berman's a very elegant discussion of these ideas very very lightly because of the the time constraints that I have and then and the number of sort of connections that I'm wanting to make to photography more broadly with Richter but dissembling de Berman is the things that's made sense of Richter's blur for me in a way that that other things that I found have not it allows for the uncertainty that's absolutely central to Richter's practice and that he identifies himself in his own writing in interviews and so on it's and that uncertainty in that sense of what he describes often as failure in his art are very critical to his philosophy as a as an and the blur within the work is like a visual shorthand if you like about these relationships of clarity or lack of clarity or the sliding scale of those things that are played out through a cross art history now I just want to make a brief aside before moving to the sort of final phase of this which is to point out a connection between what's a very different work to the fresco from Frangelico but certainly in the book and a series of abstracts that Richter producers despite their very different subjects we link these two ideas or two works that are about the problems of representation so for fra angelico the problem of representing christ is this otherworldly figure that is supposedly beyond anything we've ever experienced and yet having to figuratively produce something that stands for Christ and for Richter the problem of representing the Holocaust and the impossibility of representing the Holocaust both of these artists are working with impossible images impossible tasks or representation these are images that fail when they are formed so if we think of figuration is being formed when these images form then they fail according to the sorts of things I've been describing to give Christ that recognizable appearance is to not suggest his other worldliness to reproduce the paintings that the photographs from the Holocaust that the book inner series are based upon is to fail to demonstrate something about the horror of the Holocaust to trivialize perhaps the monstrousness of those images that you will see in the Atlas room and those images if they were reproduced would claim some sense of cohesion coherence as representation they would have the wholeness of what that every photograph has and as a consequence they would file that would file in their forming so for both Fra Angelico and Farouk de de semblance is the mechanism by which to overcome the limitations of that type of resemblance so that instead of arriving at familiar comfortable recognizable images or images that can be contained within the space of the image they take us instead to a palpable visceral effective experience of imaging but both of those represented both of those modes of referring to those subjects are types of blurred blurring that they use to arrive at a sense of immediacy and effect now to move fairly briefly to try and sort of bring this tick back together again to some points about the photographic Richter says of his photo paintings they have the same blood look whereby something has to be shown and simultaneously not shown in order perhaps to say something else again a third thing and I'm hoping that reminds you of some of the things I've been pointing out about Frangelico and the book in our series thinking about photography through painting is not necessarily entirely obvious but we know that it's a truism today to say that to think about art and to think about images at all we can't help but go via photography photography has generated this enormous body of literature and critical discourse and in many cases the sorts of concepts that come through that material are curiously oppositional so we're asked to think about photography as being able to produce homogeneous and unified images at the same time as being fractured based on fractured experiencing spirit appearances and stressing and certain realities we're asked to think of photography as being mnemonic and yet eroding memory that photography has a unique physical object yet it's automatic its mechanical and its ubiquitous we're told it's central to the understanding of the visual today but that it's also banal and empty of meaning so Richter's practice can and has been discussed in relation to many of those conceptions of photography yet in what I see as his greatest contribution to our understanding of the medium and its effects which is what I'm hoping to allude to through that broader term of the photographic he Kratz he cuts across these complexities to arrive at a simple yet profound proposition for the photographic one grounded in the blur as visual trope and a trope that has a long history in visual art while Richter's use of photography is described extensively in the literature none of those accounts actually makes clear that he's engaging a problem that's been explored in painting since medieval times that is a general relation of representation and sensation through a structure of resemblance and decembe lence it's only with this broader historical and conceptual perspective in mind that we can understand the relationship Richter's blur articulates between painting and photography and more particularly the ways in which his program for painting operates according to an older more intricate newer nuanced set of relationships in art so to conclude what I would say is that Richter's engagement with photography can be understood as making clear what's always being an essential but enigmatic condition for painting that is that painting in searching for a direct connection with the singular experience of the world has always been in pursuit of the photographic Thank You rose brain for that extremely interesting lecture we have time for a few questions if anyone just wants to put up the hands I'll bring the microphone to you hi I was just wondering about the blur specifically say the directional blur and uncle Rudi versus say the soft focus blur in the Eiji portraits if you ever attempted to label them or if the artist had labeled them and if you could appropriately use the soft focus one so described that one sformato or whether that would be incorrect I'm not sure about whether there's correct or incorrect in this but yeah there are different not so much within painting but certainly within photographic Theory there are different names for each of those different types of blur or diffusion or obscurity and so on and they're French terms that refer back to whether they are to do with a mistake or like there's one that's particular to if you're bumped when you're taking a photograph which always surprised me that there could be that specific and then there's one that is about the movement like speed of objects in front of the camera so within the context of the technical apparatus of photography yes there are those distinctions but within painting as far as I know vamatos seems to be the closest that anybody gets to talking about a blurred appearance that is particular to painting and many I mean most people when they're referring to Richter's work uses the word blur but of course to refer to blur is to immediately say that it's photographic you know because that's how we that's how that word comes up it comes about and rigged it himself is quite from strident in saying that makes no sense to say that they're blurred so he actually directs us back away from photography in trying to understand the works which I think is consistent with my approach also that yes they allude to photography but they don't allude to photography in order to imitate it they allude to photography in order to say what's at stake in photography and what's at stake is that immediacy of effect and I think we all know that I mean rollin Bart talks about that you know most famously in terms of individual responses to photographic images but there are very few people who haven't had some intense experience with a photographic image of some nature and it's the intensity and it's the you know the spontaneity and immediacy of that effect that I think Richter identifies and things that's good that's something that I want for painting but how do I have that effect set in train and yes I need to allude to photography or refer to photography in some way because this is how we know the world but I need to go beyond that also and for me that's what makes great a sense of even though it seems strangely anachronistic to go back to examples from art history and to say well gee these are a clearer or less clear or this one's obscured and that one's also obscured I think that this problem about clarity is something that has always been there and artists have explored it but also across theorists have explored and people like 100 Wirthlin refers to it as the problem of cleanness and uncleanness which is which is rather nice I think so Richter is rictus you know a very well schooled artist and he knows his art history and he goes back to his art history over and over again as can be seen in the exhibition but he also goes back there looking for these these problems for art and returning to those problems and redressing them and trying to think through them again I doubted that he he set upon this task or arrived at this particular strategy that I'm claiming where he he achieves this effect but certainly I think over time it's one of the things that he's maintained in the work and kind of reinforced in the work in different ways even though he wouldn't necessarily describe it in those terms I hope that helps