Saturday, November 26, 2005

Townscape, Paris

So far the titles of these entries have suggested timeless landscapes. Desert circle’ could have been more specific, as in the title used here for Hamish Fulton’s text piece. The titles for these works are never clear – you can pin it down to the artist’s walk or leave it as a space that the viewer/reader/listener can inhabit.

At a crowded talk at Tate Modern last night it was not possible to see the title for Gerhard Richter’s Townscape Paris. I heard it as “Paris, 1968” – which is of course an event rather than a landscape. Was the painting nevertheless about les √©v√©nements, even if they are merely evoked by their absence? The Tate curators suggest it is a grey anti-Paris, no longer the vibrant centre of art and here, stripped of familiar landmarks, resembling a bombed city. Perhaps therefore this townscape is best read as one of Richter’s paintings about painting.

And yet Townscape Paris was one of several monochrome landscapes Richter painted in that year. He also painted Townscape Madrid (1968) – a very similar picture but a different range of associations. Again from 1968, there is a sublime mountain scene: Himalaya. How does this relate to Townscape Paris? Gerhard Richter eludes easy interpretations.

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