September 12, 2011
German painter Gerhard Richter had a profound impact on my artistic practice. So when the opportunity arose to check out the screening of Corinna Belz’s documentary Gerhard Richter Painting, I couldn’t pass-up the chance. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Fest on Saturday night. This was a rare and intimate glance into Richter’s studio practice. Through the course of the film, viewers witness the layered construction of the painter’s “squeegee” abstracts. As much as the film captured the vivid complexity of Richter’s visuals, the audio design of the film was outstanding. The abrasive “growl” of the painter’s tools across the canvas still resonates for me. During quieter moments the chirping of birds can be faintly heard emanating from the studio courtyard. A very effective juxtaposition.
Overall, this doc is a little demanding for the average viewer. The pace is slow and mediative, with many shots of Richter calculating his next manoeuvre followed by artist point-of-view shots of drying paint. Several people walked out of the theatre. At one point during the film, I looked around and noticed several viewers with their eyes closed. Perhaps they were just savouring the audio I’ve mentioned.
In the end, Gerhard Richter Painting is an intimate exposé into the celebrated artist’s working environment and his signature technique. The screening was followed by a Q & A by the doc’s director. Belz was generous with anecdotes and impressions of her time with Richter. Her words and images contributed vital nuances and contours to the portrait of Gerhard Richter. Her camera preserved fugitive moments in paint; layers only Richter witnesses in the course of creating a work. Those remaining in the auditorium were appreciative. We had just seen something which no longer exists.