This is an interesting quote from Gerhard Richter: “ When we describe a process, or make out an invoice, or photograph a tree, we create models; without them we would know nothing of reality and would be animals. Abstract pictures are fictive models, because they make visible a reality that we can postulate. We denote this reality in negative terms: the unknown, the incomprehensible, the infinite. And for thousands of years we have been depicting it through surrogate images such as heaven and hell, gods and devils”.
It comes from a text for documenta 7, Kassel, 1982. He goes on to say: “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’”. Then later: “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”.
I can relate to this idea of art making as a sort of sense making. I like the idea that we create these models of aspects of reality in our minds, which we can then attempt to replicate in paint or some other material. An artwork should be something that you turn around and around in your mind (like you can turn a model round in your hands and look at it from all angles, but you can’t do that with the reality). Also, interesting to note the connection with the transcendent. God has set eternity in the heat of men, so the Preacher tells us. The abstract painting is an analogue that points both ways, though it is simultaneously stuck in its own reality. Why does the unknown fill us with hope? Is there ‘nothing’?