start small – Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter works across a wide variety of textures and formats: painting over photographs, painting from photographs but blurring, mirrors, versions of a major Titian painting…… where do you even begin?

On what basis do you choose your format?
I choose depending on the way I feel; randomly, in other words. When I haven’t done anything for a long time, I always start small, on paper.

Interview with Anna Tilroe, 1987 SOURCE
If you would like to see where Gerhard Richter went from his small beginnings with new themes and styles – see a 7 minute video of a gigantic exhibition of his works through his life, put together by the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist – equally as famous in his own line of work as the artist.
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Because Hans Ulrich Obrist is such an amazing curator, working together with the living artist, Richter – they have made an exhibition which is the best of both their work – the gathering together of series (currently broken apart, sold and living in separate parts of the world) – and Richter requesting that there be an added unexpected counterpoint on one part-wall, sometimes making a new piece specifically for that.  So you have the best of the old together with an added spice of something new.

There are even mirrors at the beginning and end of the exhibition – so that, as Obrist comments, the viewer becomes part of the exhibition.

Interestingly, as we see how Richter takes a classic painting, paints it blurred and draws interest from painting blurred photographs…. as I paused the video, I noticed that the curator himself becomes blurred in a mysterious way – see his hands in movement.


David Bomberg (1890-1957) current Exhibition

David Bomberg currently has an exhibition at Pallant House, Chichester until 4 February 2018.  It then reopens at Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne  (17 February -27 May) before going on to the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London NW8 in the summer of 2018.  Bomberg drew and painted in a variety of styles throughout his life:

It’s difficult to believe that these pictures were all made by the same man.  But David Bomberg (1890-1957) is a vital artist, who didn’t stay in the same painting style – or indeed the same place – travelling from poverty in London to the First World War, to Jerusalem, to Spain, to London then Spain again.  Once again, we are looking at that period through and just after World War One, a hundred years ago, when so many writers and painter’s lives changes forever.

There’s a very clear and interesting brief 3 minutes video introduction to David Bomberg’s life and work by the curator of the current show, Rachel Dickson and Sarah MacDougall:

And for those who are seriously interested in finding out more, art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon has made a compelling one-hour documentary on the artist.  We learn of his connection with Sir John Singer Sargent, Sickert, The Slade School of Art and how Bomberg himself became an art tutor and affected the thinking and practice of the next generation of art-makers.  This programme is currently available to view if you live in Britain (and pay a TV licence fee) on BBC i-player here.  The title for the programme is: “David Bomberg: prophet in No Man’s Land”.  If outside the UK, sometimes you may find copies of BBC arts programmes uploaded to Youtube.


Creative Takeaways

If you are a visual artist, look at Bomberg’s pictures, and pick one style very different from your own – try it!


John Singer Sargent – painter

New exhibitions opens 24th June at Dulwich gallery to celebrate the work of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) – who is famous as a portrait painter.  Here, his watercolour pictures are shown – and they are also fabulous, with a great sense of light.

There’s an article on this exhibition by the co-creator (and Sargent’s great nephew) Richard Ormond on the gallery’s website – and he features in this 2 minute taster video.

Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017) – painter

Words – the English disease

Howard Hodgkin disliked talking about his art.  A very rare documentary of him was made by Alan Yentob in the “Imagine” documentary series.  As you can see from this still, Hodgkin worked with broad brush strokes:

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still from programme “Imagine” 2006

The documentary is viewable in UK via BBC i-player for the next fortnight (16 days).  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the painter and his work – and, even more unusually, the painter AT work…..

Here are a few of his paintings, visible at the Tate galleries in London:

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“For Bernard Jacobson” – Tate

In the 1960s was he known in the artworld?:

No, I don’t think anyone knew who I was at all – I probably didn’t either.

This quote is in an excellent short video (17 minutes) of an interview, taken in the same year, 2006, with Nicholas Serota, as part of his retrospective (which I saw in Dublin).


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Still from Tate film, with the artist in the foreground, Nicholas Serota facing camera

I like this still, because it features two pictures by the artist (one to the left, one to the right), the artist in foreground but characteristically self-effacing, his interviewer the curator, and in the background, blobs of light falling onto the wall, in a pattern type which Hodgkin would paint, over and over again, in his own artworks.



Australian painter: Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984)


I had never heard of this woman painter before – despite having a copy of the excellent “Women Artists” by Nancy Heller – which is a great starting-place for finding out about many unsung women artists. In Australia, apparently, there are examples of her work in most major art galleries.

However, the Antipodean world will hear more about her in a 2016/7 touring exhibition: O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism (in partnership with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe).  Starting next month (October 2016), this ground-breaking exhibition showcases the iconic art of Georgia O’Keeffe, one of the most significant American painters of the twentieth century, alongside modernist masterpieces by the celebrated and pioneering Australian artists Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith.

The gallery of New South Wales has much to see and enjoy about this woman’s works..

I like still-lifes and interesting words so of course I couldn’t resist her casually named work “Things on an iron tray on the floor”.

I also enjoy and find intriguing the space in her “Interior with wardrobe mirror” – if you click on it, you can read her brief comments on love of colour and light. Also, the gallery has quietly commented that at this time, she chose to work with home settings, as her beloved sister was ill. In this picture, I see little echoes of Bonnard’s famous bathroom paintings, as he too was restricted to home by his wife’s illness.

Gillian Ayres – interview

Gillian paints glorious, large, confident abstract canvases full of glowing colour – because she wants “intensity” rather than tone.

In person, she appears rather the opposite – very quiet, unconfident about her skill, very down to earth, prosaic.  She is irritated by people’s determined search for meaning in her art – it is simply a visual experience – she wants them to simply look.  Probably the person least likely to ever issue an artistic manifesto.