Q: Now I hardly like to ask what significance painting can stil have, in relation to that responsibility of grasping reality.
A: It’s hard to say whether – as people do sometimes assume – painting in the past had more effect and more reality, on the grounds that it was better understood, or more popular, or was always on view in the churches to everyone. But painting still has a reality and an effect now. It is shown and bought and discussed, and quite a lot of effort goes into all of this . And so long as the art justifies the effort, by being interesting enough, then in a sense that will do for now.
Q: It might be possible for pictures to launch something like a leap in perception or in consciousness. Someone might suddenly look at things differently, react to them with more doubts, or with more involvement. Indifference might be overturned by pictures.
A: I believe it might. But I’ve got nothing to say on that subject.
Q: You have no desires in that direction yourself:
A: Of course I have – it just doesn’t do any good to take on that kind of elevated responsibility. We all know, don’t we, what well-intentioned paintings look like.
Q: Kasper Konig once showed your figurative paintings – the cycle 18 October 1977 – and abstract paintings in direct succession, in order to show that the theme is the same.
A: He was right to do that. Even so, it’s difficult, because figurative paintings are always more attractive than abstract ones. As soon as there are persons or objects to be seen, you get more interest.
Q: In 1968, in the period of the Grey Pictures and the Four Panes of Glass, there is a double panel called WAY THROUGH. It gave me a sense of a sacrifice, in the joyous, pagan sense of the word; giving something up and getting something in return. Did it feel like leaving something behind you, shaking something off, slipping away from it, in order to get to something different?
A: Certainly. And for that you always have to give something up, or destroy it, or scratch it out – as in this little abstract here.
Q: Let’s stay with scraping off for a moment. Is this removal of painti an agressive thing?
A: Yes, certainly.
Q: It has something to do with injury.
A: Yes, with injury and with taking something that has been made and destroying it, subtracting it, scratching it out. And then the pleasant feeling that you can get something else in return.
The Daily Practice of Painting – Gerhard Richter