Tate: Gerhard Richter Panorama

Some art seems to be the visualisation of music; Kandinsky comes to mind as an artist-musician who indeed tried to accomplish such a synthesis. Wandering through the Tate’s beautifully curated exhibition of so much of Richter’s work compelled to consider musical counterparts; the realism of his painting over photographs – perhaps akin to Berio painting over Mahler’s scherzo – and the vibrancy of the abstraction in his colourful works of the 60s, and those works that focus on grey. All of these, for me, inspire music; I hear music when I look at these works.

The Abstraction of the 1990s room showed me ways of structuring vibrant and contrasting timbres; it is the contrast and clear lines and blurred moments within a canvas that can be represented timbrally. The portraiture of the 1977 members of ‘Baader Meinhof’ group – it’s blurred nostalgic ambience – inspires the appropriation and perhaps the quotation of earlier work in an attempt to suggest memories. The lack of definition in these portraits is powerful in invigorating the past and something lost; poignant in that the subjects of these portraits were killed.

“Richter has always posed questions about vision, asking whether perception enables or confuses our understanding of the world.’ His characteristic blurring of recognisable and familiar subjects is something I often aspire to in composing; the play of clarity and blurring features in my Cypher (2010) for orchestra. His abstract works seem to push the familiar and recognisable through the same process as the work for voice and piano I heard performed by Plus Minus at Kings Place; repetition of the voice and piano recordings in this work progressively merged and distorted the recognisable material of the individual pianist and speaker. Richter’s abstract works seem to be logical extensions of his portraiture and other ‘Capitalist realism’ works. I think I envisage a similar process occurring in my writing – current works by me are at the realism stage and I can sense a desire to explore something more blurred and distorted. I am fascinated by the distortion of melodic fragments and Richter has given me a great deal to think about in how one can distort and transform the everyday.

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