His Notes

Now that we do not have priests and philosophers anymore, artists are the most important people in the world…Art is wretched, cynical, stupid, helpless, confusing.

The first impulse towards painting, or towards art in general, stems from the need to communicate, the effort to fix one’s own vision, to deal with appearances (which are alien and must be given names and meanings). Without this, all work would be pointless and unjustified, like Art for Art’s Sake.

Picturing things, taking a view, is what makes us human; art is making sense and giving shape to that sense. It is like the religious search for God. We are well aware that making sense and picturing are artificial, like illusion; but we can never give them up. For belief (thinking out and interpreting the present and the future) is our most important characteristic.

As soon as artistic activity turns into an ‘ism’, it ceases to be artistic activity. To be alive is to engage in a daily struggle for form and for survival. (By way of analogy: social concern is a form and a method that is currently seen as appropriate and right. But where it elevates itself into Socialism, an order and a dogma, then it loses its best and truest qualities and may turn criminal.)

Strange though this may sound, not knowing where one is going–being lost, being a loser–reveals the greatest possible faith and optimism, as against collective security and collective significance. To believe, one must have lost God; to paint one must have lost art.

Art serves to establish community. It links us with others, and with the things around us, in a shared vision and effort.

-Gerhard Richter in The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings 1962-1993


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