Gerhard Richter may be a man of few words, but his paintings speak volumes. Gerhard Richter: Panorama at the Tate Modern is a roller-coaster of emotion as you are confronted with horror and humanity in the form of Richter’s paintings of nature, killers and his family.
Richter deals with all that is human: life, death, family, world events and the everyday. With so many styles and subject choices, it may seem at first that Richter has been wandering aimlessly, though the styles match the subject and he really evokes the true idea of the artist, painting how and what he wants rather than being bogged down with a signature style. Moving through the rooms of the Tate modern, you get a real sense of progression, not only in a chronological sense, but you can feel the paintings developing, Richter’s ideas developing. The exhibition as a whole shows how Richter has explored right up to every boundary in painting, and then moved them.
A display of Richter’s grey paintings is one of the many landmarks in this exhibition, revealing his true thoughts as a painter, experimenting in every way with paint, doing away with colour so he can focus on mastering the medium. In the room that contains the grey painting series is one bold splash of colour in the form of a colour chart that Richter constructed. This is a perfect example of how well the exhibition was laid out, keeping the balance at all times in each room, not letting one style overpower any others, yet no image felt out of place or lost.
Richter once said: “I wasn’t sure that I’m good, not at all, but I was always sure that I am allowed to do this,” and it is this that makes his work what it is, the feeling of freedom to create and being completely unrestrained is what all artists long for, but few achieve. The freedom in his work however is not uncontrolled, we can see how each painting moves on from the last and how meticulously planned each pull of the squeegee is. This freedom shines through in every painting, whether he is tenderly painting a portrait of his wife, or smearing paint across one of those huge canvases, he acts as a free agent to paint that which moves him most. It is this freedom and humanity that means his expressions have such power to move the viewer as well.
Gerhard Richter: Panorama at Tate Modern, SE1 (020 7887 8888, tate.org.uk) runs until January 8, 2012. Open Sun-Thurs, 10am-6pm; Fri-Sat, 10am-10pm. Admission £12.70 (concs available).