"The melancholy of lost presence". Gerhard Richter ranks among the most important German artists of our time. This spring Richter mounts a small-scale exhibition of 27 works at Arken. The artist himself has selected the works to represent him, having in the past expressed dissatisfaction with many of the presentations of his works that he has seen.
The melancholy of lost presence.
The world-renowned German artist Gerhard Richter has himself selected the works that are exhibited at ARKEN this spring.
Gerhard Richter ranks among the most important German artists of our time. This spring Richter mounts a small-scale exhibition of 27 works at ARKEN. The artist himself has selected the works to represent him, having in the past expressed dissatisfaction with many of the presentations of his works that he has seen.
The exhibition offers an insight into the different phases in Richter's work: From 1980s figurative paintings based on photographs to the abstract paint-ings of the 1980s and '90s.
From trivial private photography to universal work ARKEN's exhibition shows Richter's use of the two media that interest him the most: Oil painting and photography. It will be possible to see photo-based works such as Betty and Uncle Rudi among others. Betty is a portrait of the artist's daughter: At once deeply personal and melancholy but also a picture with strong roots in the art-historical portrait tradition - and in the vein of painters such as Vermeer and Ingres.
Uncle Rudi portrays Richter's uncle, Rudi SchÃ¶nfelder, posing in the German uniform during World War II. This picture is an example of how Richter - via the intervention of painting - renders trivial, private photographs universal. With the portrait of his un-cle, the artist creates a collective memory image, recalling the darkest period in Ger-many's history. At the same time, Uncle Rudi is a fine example of Richter's working method, typically uniting references to his personal history and to art history with a con-stant exploration of the media he employs.
Richter's painting explores both figurative and abstract imagery. In addition to the photo paintings, ARKEN's exhibition also displays several of Richter's abstract paint-ings.
A more conceptual interpretation of the painting is evident in the preliminary work to the 28 metre high work Black-Red-Gold - a new version of the German flag - that Richter made for the newly restored Federal Diet in Berlin in 1999. This year also saw the purchase of nine of these preliminary works by Statens Museum for Kunst (the Danish National Museum of Art).
The exhibition has been mounted in collaboration with ifa (Institut fÃ¼r Auslands-beziehungen e.V.) in Stuttgart and the Goethe Institute in Copenhagen.
Uncle Rudi, 2000. Cibachrome, 87 x 50 cm
Gerhard Richter's photo painting of his uncle, Rudi SchÃ¶nfelder, is from 1965. The picture portrays Uncle Rudi posing amiably and smilingly in the uniform of the German Wehrmacht. The model for the painting is a photograph from the Richter family's private photo album.
Rudi SchÃ¶nfelder was killed in action on the front in 1944. His role in the family was an important one, and he represented vitality and success. Richter's mother always spoke of the dashing, popular uncle as an example to follow. As photo painting, however, the picture tells us nothing of the family history. It merely depicts a lieutenant of the Ger-man Wehrmacht, possibly standing in front of a tenement building or a barracks. The portrait of the uncle is thus transformed from a memory of a beloved member of the family to an incarnation of National Socialism's nefarious deeds.
For ARKEN's exhibition, Richter has selected a new work from 2000: A photograph of the original photo painting. Thus he adds yet another layer of meaning to the exploration of the relationship between painting and photography. By virtue of the movement from private amateur photograph to painting and back again to photography, a special tension is generated in Uncle Rudi:
The work's photographic qualities make it an intimate memory image with closeness and confidence between the photographer, the portrayed person, and those for whom the picture is intended. As photo painting it is lifted out of the private sphere and into a more anonymous and common province of memory in which our interest in history and condemnation of the horrible crimes of the twentieth century play a large part. With this new work, a photograph of the photo painting, an additional distance to both the private remembrance and the collective memory emerges. Nonetheless, the division between the memories of love and shame still seems insurmountable.
Arken Museum, Skovvej 100, Arken