ARTYFACTS: Degas: pre-photography Richter – post-photography artist

Monday, November 28, 2011

Degas: pre-photography Richter – post-photography artist

Degas – pre-photography artist
Degas is seen as a master of movement but I’m not so sure. By far the best paintings in the Royal Academy show are of dancers at rest. It when they’re off guard, sitting, tired and relaxed, that they come alive. Ballet’s a classical construct and is dead in still images, whether they be paintings, photographs or sculpture. In fact the Little Dancer is a dancer at rest, in a fixed pose. Musicians in the Orchestra has those extra dimensions, faces and instruments, that give the painting complexity and depth. There’s not a dancer image in the show to match it. I’d also liked to have seen some of the racing horse paintings as they’re far more lively. Of course, the bourgeoisie will always prefer ballet over the racecourse. Painting, in particular, is rarely a medium of movement. Then along comes photography. It disrupts his faith in painting – what’s more, he’s a lousy photographer. Degas is a pre-photography artist.
Richter – post-photography artist
So, off to the Tate Modern to see the Richter show – Panorama. Now Richter is the ultimate post-photography artist. He’s wholly at ease with the medium and uses it to prime his painting. He’s happy to try photographic realism in paint, or blur, distort and recreate photographic-like images in paint. There’s no clash here only admiration. His mirror work, I’m not so sure about. It has none of the innovative form of Kapoor’s mirrors. The Reader is a Vermeer-Iike image of great beauty as is The Farm, cold, still and empty. To be honest, I much prefer the paintings shown a couple of years ago at the National Portrait gallery, especially his beach snaps. This time the curators want to show a complete range of his work (is there any artist who has attempted such a wide range?) but breadth is not always matched by depth. He’s not consistent. Some of the abstract work can be hazy.
As for the Tacita Dean work in the turbine hall, it’s dull and trite.


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