I have a confession. I feel asleep during the first 15 minutes of ‘Gerhard Richter Painting’. I was tired but also if I’m totally honest I was expecting a bit of a snorefest. The very idea of seeing it seemed to have me overcome with drowsiness and was not helped by the use of minimalist classical music a la John Cage. It was looking like this would be the kind of film people would satire when wanting to extract the urine out of art house documentaries.
Then I woke up. And little by little I began to enjoy what I was seeing.
Gone was the slow ponderous and rather pretentious feel of the opening and in its place poured, like so much fresh paint, the personality of Gerhard Richter. My dad always used to say ‘the German sense of humor is no laughing matter’ but Gerhard Richter has a lovely dry and self-deprecating wit, which makes him someone we are happy to spend time with.
He is a philosopher who can laugh at his philosophy, an artist who is not afraid to relate stories of how people described his work as ‘bullshit,’ as if it were the funniest thing in the world. A man who has the humility to let us see him attempt to create beautiful works of art and fail.
In the end I got so much more out of this film than being herded around the Richter exhibition at the Tate Modern in London recently. Just seeing him working in his studio or driving around Cologne or staring at a garden fence seemed to throw new light on the work.