My Thoughts On: The Documentary “Gerhard Richter Painting”

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013


My Thoughts On: The Documentary “Gerhard Richter Painting”
Directed by Corinna Belz, 2011

Currently streamable on Netflix.

In August 2013, I was doing my first 30 paintings in 30 days Challenge and pushing myself to paint constantly. In order to keep up the momentum I would listen to inspirational podcasts and watch artist documentaries. They helped get me into the artist state of mind.

I found “Gerhard Richter Painting” while doing a simple search on Netflix. I had never heard of Gerhard Richter before and promptly Googled him. I found that he had a variety of styles from photorealistic portraiture to abstract color studies, a big jump in styles for an artist. I also learned that he is one of the top-selling living artists and started his career in the 1930s.

This documentary was not the best one to have going on in the background while painting because it is in German. However, it was so interesting it caught my attention enough to take a break, read the subtitles, and nourish my inspirational energy by helping me finish my own painting afterwards.

This documentary was an amazing glimpse into the world of an uber successful artist. The majority of the film took place in his warehouse-sized studio. We as viewers watched him paint and it felt like we were literally peeking over his shoulder. He would paint for time spans as long as 10 minutes in silence.

He had two assistants with him in his studio helping him mix colors and prepare the materials to his requirements. Richter would use large industrial tools to slide the color over his large abstract paintings. He would have as many as five paintings hanging on the wall at a time and he would move from painting to painting working on the ones that called to him.

He seemed eternally dissatisfied with what he was working on which I totally identified with and it taught me the lesson that just because you are a zillionaire, that questioning of your work doesn’t go away. It actually probably shouldn’t because that gnawing at your soul is what leads to good art.

In an interview from 1966 he said, “The typical question: What were you thinking of? You can’t think of anything; painting is another form of thinking.” It was great to watch him listen to his intuition and artist voice as he moved through his process. He also said that the paintings “do what they want” while he is working on them.

Richter was visibly annoyed with the camera watching him paint almost throughout the whole documentary. Near the end of the film he looks at the camera and says, “Painting under observation, that is the worst thing there is. You are just as exposed as being in the hospital.”

Although it was uncomfortable for Gerhard Richter, it is a great watch for any artist or art lover. Official movie website. Gerhard Richter’s official artist website

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