Gerhard Richter exhibition and a Homeless Girl

Abstract Painting 780-1 by Gerhard Richter
Image by cliff1066 via Flickr

I went to the Gerhard Richter exhibition that I’ve been wanting to go to for ages, and which ends on the 4th January. While there, I was aware of my somewhat outsidery-status due to the number of  ‘toffs’ around (the upper middle-class, or maybe the educated, cultured class. I’m neither here nor there and don’t feel I belong with either).

I thoroughly enjoyed it and made some notes on my phone (copying from descriptions etc.), such as:

All his paintings, no matter what their subject matter, are about the materiality of paint. The squeegee did not allow him complete control over how the paint was applied. He greatly prized the objective element that chance introduced into his work.

Without going into too much detail, I liked the fact that his work is about materiality, and that he wants to remove his ‘personality’ (or rather, subjectivity) as much as possible. To be able to work with materials and create something that is however not about you, or your suffering, or your subjective experience. Quite the opposite of, say, Tracey Emin’s work (who incidentally had a major retrospective at the same gallery in August).

So, there I am wanking my mind with thoughts about art and objectivity, and how this is what constitutes good work (i.e. Richter’s approach – materiality, getting rid of the subject), and on my way home a 17-year-old homeless girl from Glasgow asks me for directions to Leith Walk as she was looking for a night shelter there. She’d come from Glasgow where her 22-year-old boyfriend had thrown her out, via Livingston where she went to see her mother, a junkie, who didn’t offer any support but instead asked her daughter for money to feed her habit.

So I walked her to the top of Leith Walk, chatted about irreverent stuff (my being German, she had taken German at school etc.), while inside my heart was breaking. I thought about the wanky art stuff, and its irrelevance, and how the whole strife for objectivity doesn’t really communicate anything to the great majority of people. How removed it is from the actual real materiality of life. And how we tend to forget that it’s a fucking luxury to be able to think of such subject matters as the ‘materiality of paint’ and get turned on by removing subjectivity from our wanky self-expression.

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