Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gerhard Richter: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

All these years I was under the impression that Gerhard Richter's art was overly conceptual and cerebral... Even his abstract paintings, I remember being told that they were planned out ahead of time so that he had a very good idea of what the outcome would be.  Evidently you can't believe everything you hear as a college student, especially if it's from another college student.  Both the person Gerhard Richter and his art are completely different from how I imagined them to be.

Here are two thoughts of mine about Gerhard after watching this film, which is a movie that primarily focuses on his process of painting abstract pieces.…

-He is a champion of painting… painting is an act of discovery and an improvisational dance with each individual piece; all assumptions of where the painting was supposed to go are thrown out the window and the painting is allowed to go where it wants to go.

-Gerhard is a modest, charismatic, and wise man.  The instance in the movie when he was not feeling connected to the paintings he was working on, he expressed great sorrow and explained that as an artist there is no worse feeling than the sensation of being disconnected from and unhappy with your work.  I thought that was very honest of him and he must have felt quite vulnerable to express those feelings on camera.  Also, he bravely admitted to the interviewer that he seldom knows what to do next when painting abstract pieces... we might have expected that such a great artist as Gerhard would never arrive at a moment while painting when he does not know what to do.  But I think that this indicates his greatness because in reality, us artists are always trying to figure out how to resolve the piece that we are working on, and we sometimes stubble through its creation ungracefully.  It reminds me of the book titled "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki, which implies that the master's and the beginner's frame of mind is in essence no different from one another because of their adherence to the 
continuous process of becoming.  Gerhard understands the full value of insecurity when it comes to art... to be insecure is to be open, and to be open is risky business.  But when no risk is taken, there is no opportunity for freedom... and it's that ability for the artist to transcend their medium and create an intangible aura or presence from material that when experienced by an audience jolts us into that necessary deep connection with our true innermost self... it brings us home to our roots and fills us with catharsis, or compassion, or pathos, or love.

See the documentary for yourself and let me know your reactions.


  1. Saw the Movie and enjoyed seeing one of my favorite artist at work. In fact I stole BEING SEEN (which he said) as the title of my current show. How are you holding up?