Fisch Abstraktes Bild (grün) and Schiff Abstraktes Bild (blau) are two outstanding triptychs that were created by Richter in 1986 and hung in the reception area of the BOC Group's new and extraordinary 50 acre office complex in Surrey, England.
Although conceived as two seperate abstract triptychs, Richter wanted them to work together as a complete and puzzling abstract enviroment. Each work is a progression of three separate canvases that are interconnected by two powerful and seemingly continuous triangular forms. These unite the three canvases and create a rhombic plane at the heart of the work that suggests an illusionary space. This sense of receding space is accentuated by a metallic-like shading that conveys the appearance of light and depth. Such illusionism is however, simultaneously denied by the emphasis on the surface of the work that Richter has also generated by splattering and smearing each canvas with a vibrant scarlet. In addition, a succession of dramatic and randomly positioned squeegeed brushstrokes further denies such an illusionistic reading of the work but does not go so far as to completely obliterate it. This creates an overall sense of instability and disorientation which is again enhanced by the basic structure of each triptych being a flipped mirror-image of the other. This connected but inverted symmetry between the two works dominates the environment in which the paintings are placed and seems to actively invade and disrupt the real space.
In this way Richter creates "pictorial quality that the intelligence can't fabricate". By this he means a beauty that does not adhere to any aesthetic ideology and yet is still perceivable. It is this refusal to abide by any aesthetic rules, to deliberately negate any sense of symmetry, colour harmony or constructive unity that distinguishes Richter's painting and generates the dissonance that he believes represents the only truth and is the only hope for finding any meaning in art.
For Richter, his abstract paintings are beautiful fictions. They are artificial in the same way as his photographic paintings but they go beyond these in the fact that "they make visible a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but whose existence we can postulate". In creating two triptychs of separate but seemingly sequential 'fictive' images, Richter recalls his window-like paintings of clouds and his "Mirrors" that reflected the artificiality of all imagery and reminded the viewer that any interpretation made from anything seen was a projection of his or her own making. Richter's abstract paintings reiterate this in their deliberate negation of any aesthetic, but in clearly displaying their paradoxical nature, they also express an awareness of our inadequacies and our limited and fragmented way of seeing the world along with a hope of progressing towards an understanding. This sense of limitation and fragmentation is particularly acute in the BOC paintings because of their seeming sequential nature and because of the way that each triptych is a flipped image of the other. This conveys a sense of connection between the two works that hints at the possibility of an unexplained, unknowable, but nonetheless real truth or meaning.
"In abstract painting we have found 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 recognise something real, we rightly refuse to regard mere colour (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....So, in dealing with this inexplicable reality, the lovelier, cleverer, madder, extremer, more visual, and more incomprehensible the analogy, the better the picture. Art is the highest form of hope." (Text for catalogue of documenta 7, Kassel 1982, printed in Ibid, p. 100).
Fig. 1 Richter painting
Fig. 2 Richter painting