Since 1999, the figurative works of Daniel Richter have achieved a high level of critical success. Departing from his earlier exploration of abstraction, these recent paintings recall the grand scale of 19th Century history painting. Eschewing the post-modern game-playing of artists like Martin Kippenberger, the works convey a subtle and allusive meaning. Richter's dystopian vision speaks of dislocation and disquiet. Whereas his earlier work embraced an aesthetic of popular cultural protest, such as the punk rock bands of the late 1970s, in Süden these influences are subsumed into a more general enervation of political sensibility.
Richter employs various chromatic registers. Pastel pinks and blues are set against a sombre ground. A canny mixture of perspectival depth and picture plane flatness enliven the image. An obliquely angled rear plane suggests illusionistic space and, at the same time, a subtle sense of disorientation. Forms float in space, an atmosphere of irreality pervades. Strange and ghost-like figures are engaged in ambiguous and desperate acts. Every inch of the canvas is enlivened by frenetic brushwork, and, in places paint is dripped across the surface of the picture, as if to remind the viewer of the materiality of the work.
Richter's investigations of Western civilisation derive from an extensive archive of ephemera - in particular 'found' images from books and magazines. Fragments of images become the basis of compositions. The work operates as an allegorical investigation into the dark side of modern life. However, the artist is also an unbridled fantasist, a highly theatrical picture-maker with a taste for the Baroque.
These works form a serious contribution to the debate on painting's relevance to 21st Century art practice. As such, Richter demonstrates a conception of painting as an art of virtuoso technique and serious critical scope. For him painting clearly a medium equipped to reflect and tackle the challenges of contemporary society.