Gerhard Richter is widely considered to be one of the most influential artists working today. Some would even say he is THE most important artist. That, of course, is a matter of debate but there’s no doubting the breadth of the man’s talent and his versatility.
Sadly though there are few of his works on permanent display in the UK so what a bonus that the Tate Modern has secured a long-term loan of six of his recent works – the Cage paintings.
These six canvases are vast and were first shown at the Venice Biennale in 2007. They are the result of many, many layers of paint being put on and removed, layered on again and erased. But they are not flat – the surface of the layers of paint have been scored, deliberately broken up and scraped, causing the paint to ripple as it dries, creating a textured surface.
Greys dominate the canvases. They are bold and intense. These are strong, uncompromising canvases. But what intrigues are the unique injections of bright colour amongst them.
The flash of red in No. 4 grabs the eye. Against the harsh, rippled canvas, the painting feels violent and harsh. Yet in the others, with their touches of green and yellow, there’s a sense of hope and joy. Even romantic.
The paintings are collated together as the Cage paintings because of the influence of American composer, John Cage.
Gerhard listened to John Cage’s music as he worked on these paintings. And, like John Cage, Gerhard isn’t drawn to random composition – though these paintings may give that impression. Instead these were well-planned and structured.
The curation of the paintings too is great, with the Tate Modern dedicating a whole room to just these six paintings. It’s a beautifully quiet room too, a dead-end room in the corner of the second floor.
It was wonderful to be able to spend time with these paintings, which are powerful and beautiful in equal measure. Though it was sad to see, in that time, the amount of tourists wander into the room, realise this was not a room with a through corridor, no exit, and promptly turned on their heels and walked in the other direction.
Gerhard Richter, revered though he is, clearly therefore still isn’t a household name. What a loss for all these visitors who didn’t realise the opportunity they had to admire these great works up close. Don’t make the same mistake, please!
Tate Modern, London