Soft manipulation

Sara Lamens

Gerhard Richter (Dresden, 1932) is one of the most influential artists of the postwar era. He has sought innovative ways to challenge painting and the representation and manipulation of reality, often through a dialogue with photography.

Richter is known for a stylistically varied exploration of the medium of painting, often incorporating and exploring the visual effects of photography.


I pursue no objectives, no system, no tendency; I have no program, no style, no directions. I have no time for specialised concerns, working themes, or variations that lead to mastery. I like continual uncertainty.’   Richter 1966


In 1969 Gerhard Richter challenges the authority of the photographic image with his series ‘9 Objekte’. Each of the nine black-and-white photographs capture a different wooden construction in a quotidian setting. The ordinary context suggest the objects should also be ordinary. But their structure is in contradiction with all the rules of perspective. Richter created visual illusions, by retouching them. Like several projects of Richter, ‘9 Objekte’ challenges the image of reality, objective truth does not exist and we allow ourselves to be manipulated very easily.

‘9 Objekt’ made me think of Rein De Wilde still life series. What appears to be a conventional still life scene is in reality a strange combination of mainly mundane objects. He also includes the unseen objects of still life. He offers a blink of the surrounding environment, a room or studio and adhesive tape.

And surprisingly also Richter made some paintings with folding paper as the main subject.

The choice of the objects in combination with the often fragile arrangements and framing, offer challenge and discomfort. On top of this, Rein De Wilde uses a fragile light and soft pink and blue tones. This makes him a soft manipulator of reality.

SMAK Richter About Painting


On the occasion of the Gerhard Richter ‘About Painting’ exhibition at SMAK Ghent (Curator Martin Germann) I have chosen within the multitude of styles within the oeuvre of Richter some of his artworks and linked them with contemporary Belgian photographers.