Die Verschaffung des Guten (2003)
German artist Daniel Richter (b. 1962) has achieved growing critical attention especially in Europe for his abstract paintings of the last decade, but since 1999 he has rightly received heightened acclaim with the emergence of his large-scale distorted figurative works. His iconic boldly painted painted works are unsettling while at the same time eerily beautiful readings of the current psychic pulse of the contemporary world dis-order. Richter’s paintings speak of urban alienation, global conflict and, in quite a bizarre way, of a longing for the re-enchantment of nature. He brings revisionist politics, history painting as realistic painting, and the impact of popular culture in the media (i.e., the incitement of fear, pervasive acts of violence, global threats) into sharp focus amidst zones of deliberate obfuscation, which themselves of course are part of our reality.
Richter seems to work from reference materials like newspaper articles, reproductions of artworks, book covers, film stills, comic images, record album covers and the like, either of regional, national or global significance, and he transforms these ephemera in chimeric and sometimes almost visionary ways. His large-scale paintings have can have the theatrical flair of a surreal spectacle or a sense of apocalyptic celebration. Their rich texture of colour and illusion produces a magnetic vibrancy ranging from exuberance to being sombre, nightmarish, ghostly and always lusciously otherworldly. His canvases seem to tell timeless fables, here and now grounded in the contemporary anxieties of our post-modern world, where zeitgeist equates loss of certainties (including the absence of ageless values), alienation of the individual in a world void of profound connection, and ruthlessness of self.
Encountering several of Richter’s paintings at the same time feels like being encircled and lulled into a supernatural hypnotic trance. The pictorial space created by the artist lives outside of logic, harmony and familiarity, while at the same time it is linked to the supposed known by transcending it in depth and time. It’s a different kind of intimacy, a surreal one where place-less cities and forests see weird, creepily distorted bodies and grimacing faces roam, sometimes in brutal crowds and other times in fantastic landscapes. Richter’s work subverts reality by transporting today’s pain and confusion into the timeless worlds of the metaphysical, where carnivalesque realities are infused with maliciousness, ghost-like presences and ghoulish riders mingle with the night, tableaus of mysterious figures are gathered round blazing red fires, and other shapes of allegorical fantasy spin our attempts to escape into dreamy scenes of magic, desperation and nightmares.
But in spite of distressed soullessness and demonic fear, Richter’s narratives are open-ended. Bale and doom remain shrouded as suggestive background or hinted innuendo. He avoids presenting shocking motifs of violence or blood as doubtless certainties; instead he creates confusion. Unease and discomfort don’t hit us like a mack truck – they sneak up on us. But – there is another side to his paintings too. Despite reflecting the paranoid state of today’s world as apocalypse or maybe even eschatology, many of his paintings also have an inner glow, they radiate with their own internal light, which tells with ageless authority that the silently creeping paranoia also contains an enigmatic sense of wonder – the gateway to the mysterious, untethered by drama and hope.
Alles ohne Nichts (2007)
Poor Girl (2005)
Halli Galli Polly (2004)
Das Missverstaendnis (2003)
The owner’s historic lesson (2006-2007)
Die extreme Beginnung (2001)