OCA preloader logo
Richter and the squeegee - The Open College of the Arts
Explore #WeAreOCA
Skip Navigation
Richter and the squeegee thumb

Richter and the squeegee

Richter paints the most intricate paintings using fine tools, and at other times, paints with a squeegee. Tate Modern’s retrospective of Gerhard Richter, ‘Panorama’, aims to show the range of work he has been engaged with over the past 50 years as an artist.
Emma Drye (OCA tutor) has already blogged about this exhibition, but since it hits so many buttons for so many students, we’ve asked one of our students – Jan Batty – to review it too. Its on at Tate Modern till the 8th January so there is still time to see it if you haven’t already.
Jan Says:
“On first walking through the exhibition you are confronted with a bewildering array of different genres, from the most abstract to photo-realist and places in between, sometimes in the same painting. There were colour grids alongside plain gray paintings, big multi-coloured abstracts with highly photo-realist monotone clouds and sea, paintings of tables and of war. There do, though, seem to be some clear themes to his interests and it seems as though he chooses the technique to best explore his ideas.

Gerhard Richter 'Kind'

Looking closer it seems there is a well considered reason behind each piece of work. He’s dealing with big ideas – ones most often addressed by conceptual artists – like the nature of art, reality, perception, the significant and the ordinary, randomness. He’s commenting on these things, but in paint.
Some pieces respond to other artists’ work. Ema (Nude on a Staircase) 1966 directly references Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 1912, but also confronts that artist’s ‘end of painting’ proposal with a breathtaking demonstration of what painting can do. It is a spiritual, ghostly vision of his naked wife coming towards us down the stairs – photo-realist but blurry, soft and human.
Ema (nude on a staircase)
This blurring is something of a trademark. It occurs in his very large colourful abstracts as well as many of the photo-realist works. It made me think of movement in photography, but also of memory and the sense of time passing which is bound up in photos.

He has always used photos as reference. Some are chosen for their ordinariness and some record important historical events. By focusing on the everyday – a chair, a candle, a cloud – he draws attention to it and makes it an object of contemplation. His paintings based on newspaper photographs of the Baader Meinhof gang are undramatic, poignant and don’t glamorise. Similarly, ten years on, he has recorded an impression of 9/11 that doesn’t sentimentalise or glorify. It simply records a moment whilst somehow being compassionate.
Richter is clearly an artist who loves paint, developing his own techniques to produce the effect he wants (a squeegee for those large abstracts). And he is a committed painter which in these times is itself something to celebrate.
There’s an interesting film on the Tate Channel which is well worth a watch. It made me think more about the tradition of painting and how absolutely necessary it is to know where you stand, in context, and to refer to it – to have a conversation with other artists through paint.”

Posted by author: Jane Parry
Share this post:

2 thoughts on “Richter and the squeegee

  • Hi Jan, I enjoyed reading your review. I’m a big Richter fan and your analysis makes sense to me (but wish I could have seen it too!). The film on the Tate channel is amazing — the way the paintings are shipped and hung, and the glimpses of his studio — wow!!!

  • Hi Jan. Great to see your review. I went to the exhibition, having been a fan of Richter’s for a while. I rediscovered how amazing this artist is. He has changed styles over the years and never afraid to experiment and stretch himself. I loved the portraits of his daugher – and wouldn’t have believed that the same artist did the squeegee ones, they are so different in style. I looked at the squeegee paintings for absolutely ages and was delighted that we could get so close – the textures are amazing and one could get really engrossed in the layers that made it. Even the “distressed” photographs were intriguing – I particularly liked the tiger one – the blurring he did really accentuated the movement of the animal.
    One of the best exhibitions I’ve seen for a while. I really enjoyed seeing the video, which brought the whole thing to life – and interesting to see how the Tate wanted to hang the pictures to best effect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to blog listings