'Reality', 'perception', 'ideology', 'belief', 'structure', 'language' - all representation is mere artifice. These words and others like them are solely concepts that serve us as models for understanding the world around us. They offer approximations of a reality that we inhabit but which we can never truly comprehend.
If one believes this, and it appears that Gerhard Richter does, then the art of painting becomes both a deeply problematic and a moral occupation. Richter has solved the problem of representation in his art by creating work that self-evidently exposes its own artifice and the inadequacy of representation. In painting from photographs, his work demonstrated what Richter has called the 'fictive' nature of reality and the role of pictures as models for understanding it. In his abstract paintings he found 'a better way of gaining access to the unvisualizable and the incomprehensible; because abstract painting deploys the utmost visual immediacy - all the resources of art in fact - in order to depict "nothing"' (G. Richter quoted in Text for the catalogue of documenta 7, Kassel 1982).
Richter's abstract paintings articulate the impossibility of true representation, their own artifice and the nature of the human struggle that Richter has made not to succumb to received habit or convention. Layered in a sequence of operations aimed at denying any such blasphemies against the true unknowable nature of reality, Richter builds his paintings using only their core elements. 'Nature/structure. There is no more to be said, that is what I reduce things to in the pictures, though 'reduce' is the wrong word, for it is not a matter of simplifications. I cannot verbalise what I am working on there, what I see as fundamental, multi-layered, as important and more true. Everything that one can think out for oneself in this way, all this idiocy, these foolish things, cheap constructions and speculations, amazing inventions, harsh, surprising juxtapositions, which one is of course also forced to see a million times day in day out, this mentally deficient misery...All this I paint away, clear out of my head when I start a picture, that is my ground, which I deal with in the first few layers, which I destroy layer by layer, until all the frivolous rubbish is destroyed. Thus what I ultimately have is a work of destruction. It goes without saying that I cannot do without these detours, thus that I cannot begin with the final state' (G. Richter quoted in 'Notes 21st Sept 1989' reproduced in Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London 1991, p. 121).