The exhibition, conceived by Franziska Nori (project director of the CCCS) and Hubertus Gassner (director of the Kunsthalle Hamburg), hosts a selection of works by Gerhard Richter, one of the best-known and most sought-after living painters, placed in dialogue with works by seven international contemporary artists, who all share Richter’s profound distrust of the image as a guarantee of truth.
The exhibition follows the current CCCS exhibition Manipulating Reality, which explores the relationship between reality and representation in the medium of photography. Richter, one of the pioneers in depicting the dissolution of both the motif and the medium, paints over original pictures or uses a blurred painting technique. He deliberately selects trivial or random motifs as the starting point for his paintings. Well aware of the power of images, Richter strives to break or at least question their authority by making his pictures merge or disappear. He plays with reality and appearance and converts figurative images into abstract ones by focusing, for example, on fragmentary details. Richter addresses the difference between subjective perception and the objective experience of reality in which the artist can only offer possible approaches to address the difficult relationship between the object and its representation.
The CCCS has invited seven contemporary artists who also use the dissolution of the image to engage in a dialogue with Richter’s work. To maintain their own artistic identity, the work of each artist will be presented in its own space. Xie Nanxing (China, 1970) uses video and photography as intermediate media for his reflections on painting and the human condition; Lorenzi Banci (Italy, 1974) investigates the boundaries between representation and abstraction by painting dissolving shapes in which mere light is the object; while Scott Short’s (USA, 1964) conceptual work is based on photocopying a blank sheet of paper hundreds of times until incidental marks create an accidental image which then becomes a painting. Roger Hiorns (Great Britain, 1975), one of the four artists shortlisted for the 2009 Turner Prize, works with chemical components and choreographs planned incidents to create his sculptural work. Marc Breslin (USA, 1983) uses the pictorial surface like a palimpsest, scratching signs and graffiti into the many layers of paint, thus creating a metaphor for mental processes, memory and oblivion. Wolfgang Tillmans (Germany, 1968) treats the photographic paper as canvas. He started by representing everyday subjects and from there he went further into abstraction, following the logic of the medium itself. Antony Gormley (Great Britain, 1950) will produce a site-specific installation for the exhibition, that further develops his research for a new social art where the interplay between abstraction and figuration is the result of a process of dissolution of the human figure.
Meanwhile Richter remains true to the medium of painting, questioning his values and meanings, the other seven artists work with different media, such as photography, installation, painting, sculpture, taking as their theme the absence (and sometimes impossibility) of making a clear statement by means of a picture today.