Decisions, Maybe Bad Ones

This video of Gerhard Richter in his studio shows him painting a couple of largish abstracts, with three big pots of paint—yellow, red and blue—and a wide brush. The sequence in question is from 12-23 minutes. It’s a pleasure to watch someone with so many years of experience and accumulated skill swing a brush, and he has a great method—just straight forward wet into wet, building structures, dragging the paint or lifting the brush as he feels his way. At the end he admits he’s been enjoying himself, and it shows.

Unfortunately. at the moment one can only see a trailer

Since I watched the film it’s been taken off Youtube and now I think one has to pay to view. Here are a couple of links to the film for those who want to follow up.

He says he should “find a way to make them just as fast, just as fancy free, but would leave them finished too. And good.” But wait a minute—of course that’s the right goal, but lots of artists have reached it. Picasso managed to turn out several thousand improvisations that stand as perfectly finished and resolved works. For that matter, there’s plenty of “fancy free” in Poussin, of all people, in the skies and landscapes. My Island paintings manage the same thing. Richter says, “it’s so much fun and they look good—for two hours.” Okay, so they’re not finished, first effort doesn’t get the result—de Kooning knew what to do about that, and Richter’s pictures look a lot like early stage de Koonings. But Richter’s idea of “finish” is to obliterate them with his squeegee and make an all-over single thing, with no incident, no form, no decisions showing. That last move, the same move every time, happens at 39 minutes to about 47. I talk about his method in my book, but just for now, it seems as if Richter has a day job, in his case making decorative abstractions for millionaire’s apartments, so he can buy time to paint for the pleasure of it—just like many of us. But he doesn’t keep the paintings he makes for pleasure. Sounds kind of avant-garde.

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