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Friday, 11 November 2011

Gerhard Richter Panorama Retrospective, Tate Modern

After walking round Tate Modern's new Gerhard Richter 'Panorama' exhibition, it became apparent to me that this is an artist that has many preoccupations, in thirteen rooms almost as many styles and genres are touched on. Richter has become known for this diversity of approaches: the photography influenced works - personal or political, scraped abstracts, still lifes, monochrome cityscapes and my personal favourites - the colour charts. Here we are shown five decades of work; I was constantly looking for connections between the pictures however many of the subjects seem only tenuously related, proof of Richter’s active mind and imagination.

For my A-level art exam, I painted a pixelated self portrait split into hundreds of squares…I remember exploring the work of Richter then, examining the technique and theories behind his immaculate, perfectionist colour charts. It was amazing to see these oversized works in the flesh, they are far more exciting than I expected. My A-level painting was not abstract, however close up it could have been, as the structure of the face became lost and the pattern of the grid more obvious.

I was interested to find out more about Richter’s squeegee (an onomatopoeically named tool with a flat, smooth rubber blade) pictures - these paintings are made from many layers of paint, the artist passing a squeegee over the surface, pulling the paint vertically and horizontally. They are epic abstract paintings, raw, colourful and very expressive. The paint seems to bubble up from the canvas, vast sunsets of thick impasto with contrasting hues peeking through; they are impressive to say the least.

The most memorable works were perhaps the elusive cloud paintings, which are quiet and calm, and felt very alive to me despite being almost monochrome. They have a photographic realism, completely different to the aggressive abstractions, or those later works that examine the violent terrorist activity of the Red Army Faction.

If you are trekking to Tate Modern, I would recommend not going at the weekend as you will have to contend with lots of manic culture vultures, but this varied retrospective is definitely worth a visit, it gives a comprehensive overview of Richter’s life and displays many of his most impressive works.

Continues until 8 January at Tate Modern, visit website and book tickets here.

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