Abstraktes Bild is a large example from a series of paintings executed in 1992 in which Richter made regular use of squeegees to pull paint across the canvas in a regimented series of vertical stripes. Following on from his 1990 series of abstract paintings entitled Forest--a title that Richter had belatedly bestowed upon four abstract paintings because they recalled the density, confusion and romantic atmosphere of the forest--Richter began to explore these same qualities in these vertically sequential abstracts. Seeming to both reveal and undermine a perceptual depth to the painting, the effect of these squeegeed strips with their myriad details of color and pattern is deliberately ambiguous. Seeming to both conceal and reveal at the same time and vying with one another for the eye's attention, these stripes provide a pictorial demonstration of Richter's belief that what we call 'reality' is ultimately a 'fiction,' a mere 'model' for understanding the world.
The deliberate ambiguity invoked in Abstraktes Bild is intended to demonstrate that all perception is an illusion. By seemingly providing two layers of conflicting abstract reality at the same time on the surface of the picture, Richter presents a forest-like mystery where the viewer quite literally can't see the wood for the trees. Only a simultaneous view of the two demonstrably alternating layers of paint provide a complete and new picture. Playing with the surfaces of his abstracts, Richter is in effect exploring them in the same way that he explored the ambiguity of blurring in his photographic paintings of the 1960s. As with these works Richter is clearly still fascinated with surface and the insight it can provide into the mystery of what lies beneath.
As Richter has often pointed out, it is essentially only in the abstract that an approximate sense of the truly unfathomable nature of reality can be found. 'Abstract painting', Richter has written, provides' a better way of gaining access to the unvisualizable, the incomprehensible; because abstract painting deploys the utmost visual immediacy--all the resources of art in fact--in order to depict "nothing".
Accustomed to pictures in which we recognize something real, we rightly refuse to regard mere color (however multifarious) as the thing visualised. Instead we accept that we are seeing the unvisualisable: that which has never been seen before and is not visible. This is not some abstruse game but a matter of sheer necessity: the unknown simultaneously alarms us and fills us with hope, and so we accept the pictures as a possible way to make the inexplicable more explicable, or at all events, more accessible" (Gerhard Richter: 'Text for the catalogue of documenta 7, Kassel, 1982, reprinted in Ibid p. 100).