Art Quote for the Day

FIELD AND VISION

For Mark Rothko ( 1903 – 1970 ) , immense scale was a way of immersing the viewer in the picture:  “However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command.”

This is not sheer hubris.  Rothko wanted to make works that wrought a transcendent effect, that dealt with spiritual concerns: “Paintings must be like miracles,” he once said. With Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still, Rothko represents, in the words of art critic Robert Hughes, the “theological side” of Abstract Expressionism.

Rothko and Newman worked with vast fields of unbroken color, without any figurative reference points at all.  In principle at least, there was nothing in these works for the viewer to respond to except raw visual impression, the hue and luminosity of the paint itself.  This was Kandinsky’s vision taken to its logical extreme: the object had disappeared entirely , and the only thing left was color. As the  strength of the effect was considered porportional to the size of the image, these painters found it necessary to work on a large scale.  The have become known as the Color Field group.

Yet something of the figurative remains if the canvas is not simply monochrome.  The eye and brain seem to demand it; they conspire to construct forms from the juxtaposed fields of color, just as Leider warns.  Rothko’s  TWO OPENINGS IN BLACK OVER WINE (1958),  becomes a window in a dark room through which one sees the last glimmering of a burgundy dusk.  OCHRE AND RED ON RED ( 1954) ,  has echoes of  landscape simply by virtue of the horizontal format of the color field: we are looking out into the shimmering heat haze of a desert.

BRIGHT EARTH – Art and the Invention of Color by Philip Ball

Art Quote for the Day

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

Art Quote of the Day

A
Q : Do you believe in your own paintings?

A: There are few that I like, but I wouldn’t go so far as to stand up and say I believe in them.

Q: But surely you ought – otherwise why go to all that trouble?

A:  Of course, I have to believe that I can produce something useful.  And the pleasure of making counts for a lot in painting- as when someone’s making music.  There’s no room for doubt.

Q:  doubt as to what?

A: That it might make no sense, or be unnecessary or passe’

Q: Doubt as to the possibility of still making a picture  you can believe in?

A:There are so many believable pictures in the world, and we love them; we travel long distances to see them.  We need them . And there are some people who need to make picutres themselves.

Q:  How does this question of  need relate to your earlier statement that you were looking for the maximum possible indifference?

A: This was an attempt at self-protection – saying that I was indifferent, that I didn’t care, and so on.  I was aftaid my pictures might seem too sentimental.  But I don’t mind admitting now that it was no coincidence that I painted things that mattered to me personally- the tragic types, the murderers and suicides, the failures, and so on.

Q: Is the painted picture closer to the reality or to the appearance?

A: In one sense it’s closer to the appearance, but then it has more reality than a photograph, because a painting is more of an object in itself, because it’s visibly hand-painted, because it has been tangibly and materially produced.  That gives it a reality of its own, which then as it were substitutes for the reality of the cup.

Q: So can a painted appearance tell us more about reality?

A: Perhaps it can, because it’s more unsettling.  It’s always more or less different from reality, and that’s unsettling. You ask more questions.

Q: You get closer?

A: Yes, closer to our relationship with reality.  The cup on its own is boring.

The Daily Practice of Painting – Gerhard Richter

Art Quote for the Day

Interview with Sabine Schutz (cont)

Q: In 1976 you began to paint abstract pictures, because you wanted something that you cxouldn’t visualize in advance. In doing so, you invented a method that was absolutely new to you. Was that an experiment of some kind?

A: Yes. It began in 1976, with small abstract paintings that allowed me to do what I had never let myself do: put something down at random. And then, of course, I realized that it never can be random. It was all a way of opening a door for me. If I don’t know what’s coming – that is, if I have no hard-and-fast image, as I have with a photographic original- then arbitrary choice and chance pay an important part.

Q: How do you manage to direct chance in such a way that a highly specific picture with a specific statement comes out of it – because that is your stated intention, isn’t it?

A: No, I don’t have a specific picture in my mind’s eye. I want to end up witha picture that I haven’t planned.This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture. Each picture has to evolve out of a painterly or visual logic: it has to emerge as if inevitably. And by not planning the outcome, I hope to achieve the same coherence and objectivity that a random slice of Nature (or a Readymade) always possesses. Of course, this is also a method of bringing in unconscious processes, as far as possible. I just want to get something more interesting out of it than those things that I can think out for myself.

The Daily Practice of Painting – Gerhard Richter

Art Quote for the Day

21 July 1989
Nature/Structure. There is no more to say. In my pictures I reduce to that. But ‘reduce’ is the wrong word, because these are not simplifications. I can’t verbalize what I am working on: to me, it is many layered by definition; it is what is more important, what is more true.
Everything you can think of – the feeblemindedness, the stupid ideas, the gimcrack constructions and speculations, the amazing inventions and the glaring juxtapositions – the things you can’t help seeing a million times over, day in and day out; the impoverishment and the cocksure ineptitude – I paint all that away, out of myself, out of my head, when I first start on a picture. That is my foundation, my ground. I get rid of that in the first few layers, which I destroy, layer by layer, until all the facile feeblemindedness has gone. I end up with work of destruction. It goes without saying that I can’t take any short cuts: I can’t start off right away with the work in its final state.
The Daily Practice of Painting – Gerhard Richter

Art Quote for the Day

18 May 1985

The way I paint, one can’t really paint, because the basic prerequisite is lacking: the certainty of what is to be painted , i.e. the Theme.  Whether I mention the name of Raphael or of Newman, or lesser lights such as Rothko or Lichtenstein, or anyone else, down to the ultimate provincial artist – all of them have a theme that they pursue, a ‘picture’that they are always striving to attain.

When I paint an Abstract Picture ( the problem is very much the same in other cases), I neither know in advance what it is meant to look like nor, during the painting process, what I am aiming at and what to do about getting there.  Painting is consequently an almost blind, desperate effort, like that of a person abandoned, helpless, in totally incomprehensible surroundings – like that of a person wh possesses a given set of tools, materials and abilities and has the urgent desire to build something useful which is not allowed to be a house or a chair or anything else that has a name; who therefore hacks away in the vague hope that by working in a proper, professional way he will ultimately turn out something proper and meaningful.

So I am as blind as Nature,who acts as she can, in accordance with the conditions that hinder or help her.  Viewed in this light, anything is possible in my pictures; any form , added at will, changes the picture but does not make it wrong.  Anything goes; so why do I often spend weeks over adding one thing? What am I making that I  want? What picture of what?

30 May 1985

No ideology. No religion, no belief, no meaning, no imagination, no invention, no creativity, no hope – but painting like Nature, painting as change, becoming, emerging, being-there, thusness; without an aim , and just as right, logical,perfect and incomprehensible  ( as Mozart, Schoenberg, Velazquez, Bach, Raphael, etc.) We can identify the causes of a natural formation, up to a point; the same causes have led to me and , in due course, to my  paintings, whose immediate cause is my  inner state, my happiness, my pain, in all possible forms and intensities, until that cause no longer exists

The Daily Practice of Painting by Gerhard Richter

Art Quote for the Day

Notes, 1985

20 February 1985

Of course I constantly despair at my own incapacity, at the impossibility of ever accomplishing anything, of painting a valid, true picture or even of knowing what such a thing ought to look like. But then I always have the hope that, if I persevere, it might one day happen.  And this hope is nurtured every time something appears, a scattered, partial, initial hint of something which reminds me of what I long for, or which conveys a hint of it – although often enough I have been fooled by a momentary glimpse that then vanishes, leaving behind only the usual thing.

I have no motif, only motivation. I believe that motivation is the real thing, the natural thing, and that the motif is old-fashioned, even reactionary ( as stupid as the question about the Meaning of Life.)

28 February 1985

Letting a thing come, rather than creating it – no assertions, constructions, formulations, inventions, ideologies – in order to gain access to all that is genuine, richer, more alive: to what is beyond my understanding.

At twenty: Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It doesn’t matter how rightly I remember, the only thing that stayed with me, that struck me at the time , was Kutuzov’s way of not intervening, of planning nothing, but watching to see how things worked out, choosing the right memoent to put his weight behind a development that was beginning of its own accord. Passivity was that general’s genius. { the Abstract Pictures: more and more clearly , a method of not having and planning the ‘motif ‘ but evolving it, letting it come.}

Using chance is like painting Nature – but which chance event, out of all the countless possibilities?

The Daily Practice of Painting by Gerhard Richter

Art Quote for the Day

27 December 1985

Terrible and challenging, the blank canvas shows nothing – because the Something that is to take the place of Nothing cannot be evolved from Nothing, though the latter is so basic that one wants to believe in it as the necessary staring point.

It is not possible to visualize Nothing.  One way to gain some idea of that terrible state is through the impossibility of visualizing anything before, after or alongside the universe.  Now , since we very much want this visualization, but know it only as one that we can never have, it is an impossibility that we experience, existentially, as an absolute limit.

Thus, without a visualization, we stand  in front of the empty canvas and can respond – as ever – only with ignorance and madness, by making what statement we can:  a surrogate, basically, but one that we believe can somehow touch the impossible.  ( The advantage of my Grey Pictures  is that they seem to unmask all other statements, whether object-bound or abstract, as surrogates, and arbitrary ones at that.  In natural terms, however, they are still the same statements.)

The Abstract Pictures are no less arbitrary than all object-bound representations (based on any old motif, which is supposed to turn into a picture).  The only difference is that in these the ‘motif’ evolves only during the process of painting.  So they imply  that I do not know  what I want to represent , or how to begin; that I have only highly imprecise and invariably false ideas of the motif that I am to make into a picture; and therefore  that – motivated as I am solely by ignorance and frivolity – I am in a position to start.

Gerhard Richter – The Daily Practice of Painting

Art Quote of the Day

“What an artist chooses to represent or work from is one  of the factors that makes every individual’s art distinctive and original.  It can help if you have a good story to tell.  Or if you have genuinely original ideas. The themes , concepts and ideas an artist works with will often recur, even across long periods in time as in the remarkable career of Marcel Duchamp, a truly original creative mind, whose last work, Etants Jonnes, put together in secret over many years and revealed in 1969 referred back to pieces Duchamp had made before World War I.

The career of the painter Philip Guston (1913-1980) was marked by extraordinary shifts in style that covered many of the major movements of the twentieth century.  After beginning figuratively, Guston became a leading abstract painter only to abruptly give up abstraction, saying it was a lie and a sham. (“anything but this,” he said)

“{Guston} began to draw and paint a repentant catalogue of all the mundane objects that had been excluded  from his art of the past quarter century: old shoes, rusted nails, mended rags, brick walls, cigarette butts, empty windows,naked light bulbs, wooden floors,faces with day old stubble.”    Kirk Varnedoe & Adam Gapnik

The Artist’s Mentor – Inspiration from the World’s Most Creative Minds – Ian Jackman, editor