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signed, titled and dated 'Janusband D. Richter 2009' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
31 3/4 x 23 3/4in. (80.5 x 60.2cm.)
Painted in 2009
Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2009.
Berlin, Contemporary Fine Arts, Daniel Richter Oh la la, 2009.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Painted in 2009, Janusband is a striking example of Daniel Richter’s vibrant, enigmatic figurative compositions. In his signature psychedelic colour palette, the artist presents two musicians standing in a monochrome landscape. One, in hot pink, strums an electric guitar, whilst the other is a lurid green, staring directly out of the picture plane. Behind them is a black-and-white mountain range. Its undulating forms melt into a liquid pool at the centre of the composition, which reflects the two figures. Frozen as if caught on a surveillance camera, the musicians are depicted in the colours of X-ray or infrared vision, their glowing forms strange and otherworldly. Meanwhile, the composition evokes a myriad of contexts: a concert arena; a craggy wilderness; even, as the army-green figure brandishes what could be either instrument or weapon, a military battleground. Theatrical and atmospheric, Janusband is a magnificent example of the thrilling narrative tension that has come to define Richter’s art.

Janusband harks back to a moment in Richter’s early career, during which he designed posters and record sleeves for German punk bands. The work’s depiction of two musicians reflects not only the radical punk aesthetic that continues to pervade his work, but also his ability to translate the subjective, experiential quality of music into his canvases. ‘Painting is like music—precise and yet unclear’, Richter has said. ‘The quality of an image isn’t something you can translate into language. If you could do such a thing, then you wouldn’t need an image in the first place’ (D. Richter, quoted in L. Beisswanger, ‘Join the Joyride—Painting and Music in the Works of Daniel Richter’, Schirn Mag, 20 October 2015). Richter owns his own record label, is an avid record collector, and is reported to blast music whilst practicing in his studio. These influences are almost audible in Janusband, its surface thrumming with sonic anticipation.

Richter also draws on art-historical precedent, and is especially influenced by scenes of magic and mythology. The present work’s title refers to the ancient Roman deity Janus: the god of portals, duality and transitions, typically depicted with two heads facing in opposing directions. This doubleness is embodied in the work’s two complementary figures and the paired reflection beneath them. The bright pink figure even appears to mimic the bust of Janus, playfully recalling his distinct bearded profile.

A student of Werner Büttner from 1992 to 1996, and later a studio assistant to Albert Oehlen, Richter was an heir to the spirit of the 1980s Junge Wilde. Along with his contemporaries, all of whom rose to prominence in the years following the rise of international Neo-Expressionism, Richter rallied for a subversive overhaul of aesthetic convention in favour of so-called ‘bad painting’. While many of these artists channelled an increasingly abstract approach, however, Richter’s oeuvre evolved in the opposite direction, and around the turn of the millennium he abandoned his gestural forms for a more figurative idiom. Captivated by paint’s inherent capacity for storytelling, Richter is inspired by the legacy of Symbolists such as James Ensor and Edvard Munch. Their use of intense, hypnotic colour informs his own heightened palette, which echoes the eerie light of thermal imaging, radioactivity and surveillance technologies. Richter has also drawn inspiration from artists working today: the eerie figures in the present work invite close comparison with the illusory, spectral canvases of Peter Doig. Bearing all the hallmarks of his mature practice, Janusbund demonstrates Richter’s unique contribution to contemporary figuration.

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