This post centers around the examples of abstraction in Gerhard Richter’s paintings. It also references a movie, Never Look Away which was inspired by Richter’s life. I have connected this post to my Unit 6 presentation of Joan Mitchell and expanded this post to talk about how violence was used by the RAF as a form of language.
After watching Never Look Away and analyzing many of the paintings by Gerhard Richter, I believe the connection between reality and his paintings is that the paintings evoke the feeling and emotion of reality from the viewer. Two stills from the movie jumped out at me the most while watching the film, the scene when Kurt stands in front of the bus as they blare their horns and the scene when young Kurt puts his hand in front of his face as his Aunt Elisabeth is dragged away. In both of these scenes, “reality” seems to blur away, the sense of sight of what was happening in the moment disappeared. In both scenes, while his vision is blurred Kurt seems fully present in the emotion of the moment. In my interpretation, this is what his Aunt Elisabeth meant when she said “Never Look Away” ; allow yourself to be present in the moment and acknowledge the feelings that you experience. The effect of blur in Richter’s painting allows the viewer to explore their emotions within a fleeting moment of reality he creates. Richter’s painting have no intrinsic meaning or statement, so the viewer is allowed to use their feelings or life-experiences to interpret the blur in whatever way makes most sense to them.
Richter’s painting of Ulrike Meinhof’s dead body is not intended to depict the actual reality of her death. However, Richter’s painting of Meinhof allows the viewer to ignore the visual subject matter and replace the blur with their feelings about Meinhof and construct their own image within his painting. In the movie, Kurt is told to “Never Look Away” and with the blur in these paintings the audience isn’t forced to look away like they would if they were presented with an accurate image of Meinhof’s death. The blur creates an image that allows the viewer to be present in the moment contrasted from photography or realistic photos which leave no room for the opinions of the viewer.
Both Joan Mitchell and Gerhard Richter’s paintings exist within the category of “Abstract Art.” However, it is interesting to see the vast differences within their work. Richter painted photo realistic painting of newspaper clippings and old photos and they created a blur effect over them. Conversely, Mitchell’s work is very vibrant with large strokes that seek to capture her emotion about a landscape or object. When placed side by side, the differences in their work jumped out to the viewer. How are these two vastly different artists consider part of the same genre of art?
One of Richter’s most famous paintings was a blurred painting of Ulrike Meinhof’s death. Meinhof was one of the founding members of the Red Army Faction in Germany. However, before she joined the RAF, she was a journalist for a left-wing newspaper konkret. Why did a journalist who had the platform to express her opinion turn to violence actions that the RAF took part in? The answer can be seen in one of her most famous quotes.
“Protest is when I say this does not please me.
Resistance is when I ensure what does not please me occurs no more” – (Meinhof May 1968)
In this quote, Meinhof emphasizes the limitations of language. Throughout this portfolio, we have explored how language has enabled humans to describe their human experience. However, through Meinhof’s quote we can see the limitations of language. Nearly all of the revolutions, we have looked at have involved violence to produce change. Through the Meinhof quote we can see that language can be used to gain public support and point out the injustices but I can’t force the people in power to do something about it. Violence and Resistance is how revolutions communicate that the change in necessary.