Reveling in intoxicating form and scintillating colour, Punktum, executed in 2003, is a shining example of Daniel Richter's celebrated 'figurative abstraction'. Making a departure from his early abstract works from the previous decade influenced by Sigmar Polke, by the turn of the millennium his earlier musings on abstraction had morphed into his much revered skeletally abstracted figures. It was at this fruitful time of his career, that Punktum was crafted and celebrates the maturity of his figurative work. This new aesthetic offers a vision of a postapocalyptic humanity and narrative impulses which he borrows from German and Christian iconography. Drawing on spirituality this work makes reference to the polarities of light and dark which in Christianity allude to good and evil. Executed on a monumental scale, this work is in concert with the grand, historical narrative of painting.
A swarming mass of neon, otherworldly, figures huddle in the foreground latticed together like a wall of glowing crimsons and fiery orange hues. Their haunting faces and empty eyes make reference to Edvard Munch's The Scream and present a similarly paranoiac vision of the possible future. The unifying theme of paranormal is heightened through the composition of the figures who writhe, twist and turn, punctuated by strange creatures such as a purple monkey alluding to notions of a supernatural aura and imperious myth. Richter conducts an epic theatre of malefic tension through the shocked thronging mob and the mysterious white apparition which rises up in front of the crowd creating an off-kilter focal point.
Drawing influences from the hypnotic, psychedelic, patterns of Edouard Vuillard to the tactility of Peter Doig, Richter cultivates these ideas through his own lurid palette creating an intense sense of luminosity through his playful use of texture, his distinctive vibrancy and purity of colour, and his modern interpretation of chiaroscuro, which bathes his paintings in a reddish hue like an infrared camera. The dramatic, aphotic, landscape and compulsive layering of paint in this dreamscape serves to electrify the neon palette of the frenzied figures in the foreground which makes the canvas appear to be glowing from an internal source. Rendered in an impastoed, lattice-like manner, the vibrant colour scheme appeals to a psychedelic world which these crazed beings inhabit. The heavy brushstrokes against the translucent dribbles of the ephemeral white apparition create a physical tension in the painting. Speaking of this process the artist has said 'what has always interested me is the process by which a blob of colour becomes a rabbit hopping about or a victim of torture' (D. Richter, quoted in Hunterground, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, June 2006, p. 208).