Drawings have been part of Gerhard Richter’s production, alongside his paintings, since 1964. They are distinguished by specific features and fulfill a variety of functions. Richter himself was always critical of drawing as an artistic genre. Just as he avoided traditional printing techniques such as etching and lithography, he finds classical drawing similarly influenced by ideas about workmanship and aesthetics. In his own drawings and other works on paper, he has consistently endeavored to subvert the medium’s traditional aesthetic. For his first watercolors, for instance, in 1977/78, he used thin, lined writing paper that showed obvious warping as a result of his choice of medium – a result that would be considered grossly negligent by academic criteria.
The 70 sheets are titled with dates between November 15, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2020, which do not denote the exact dates of completion, but do serve to group the drawings into blocks of work. Other features also distinguish these new works from the artist’s earlier abstract drawings. In his new drawings, Richter does not use a standardized DIN format, but has instead cut the pages to specific dimensions. The most remarkable innovation, however, is the use of colored pencils and lithography chalk, which give some of the drawings an additional dimension and complexity.
While Richter uses a squeegee on his Abstract Paintings as a way to leave more to chance in the creative process and to allow the final work to arise from a changeable process of trial and error, the autonomy of chance is excluded from the small format drawings. The sheets demand increased concentration, similar to his first abstract images from the 1970s, before Richter had found, with the squeegee, an instrument to liberate the process of creation. In the drawings, nothing is left to chance. Every line must be intentionally drawn, every shapeconsciously created, while at the same time neither form nor composition appears purposeful in order, as Richter expressed it in 1986, to contain everything in the result: idea, shape, form and composition.