Download: Press Release Christiane Richter
In the late 1980s, Christiane Richter emerged with abstract photos focusing on colour effect. In 1987 she made the first presentation of her work at the Art Cologne. The art world was equally surprised by the blaze of monochrome areas of colour and the oversized dimensions which gave the photos the appearance of autonomous pictures. Christiane Richter‘s reduced compositions of flows and fields of colour - sometimes separated sharply and sometimes blurredly - seemed to be paintings, yet they obviously were not. Even today viewers of her works asked how they came about, given the smoothness and two-dimensionality of the shining surfaces and the anonymous application of colour.
They are photographs, yet the artist, born in Bielefeld, Germany, in 1963, consciously relates to colour-field painting. Christiane Richter, initially a painter, does not consider painting and photography to be completely isolated from one another. Contemporary developments in painting are just as stimulating to her when working in colour photography as in the converse case, when colour experience in photography in turn has an effect on painting.
She discovered colour photography when she was taking a look at how she could transpose her colour photos on paper to another medium. However, colour in photography is determined by physical chemical processes and layers of colour stored in industrially manufactured materials. Christiane Richter uses various methods to activate colour: she takes photos of coloured areas and remaining strips from the production of photos; she works with filters, white light, different shutter speeds and a chromogenic method of development. The question of what colour photography can afford in view of the emergence of new shades of colour and how these colours should be used for abstract compositions is a determining factor for her. How can you get the colour to appear on the picture just where it is supposed to appear? She is actually using calculation and force to get something out of this unstable medium - something that seems to be impossible: pure colour presence. In 1972 John Hilliard‘s mediaanalytical work „12 Representations of White“ showed how colours in photography can change depending on the brands of the film and the development material.
Christiane Richter was recognised by the art scene at an early age with her large-format photographs. In 1989/90 she was awarded the Ars Viva Prize of the Culture Society in the Association of German Industry and in 1992-1994 she received a prestigious Karl Schmidt-Rottluff scholarship. In addition to her individual exhibitions she also took part in major group exhibitions on abstract photography: in 1991 she took part in the Vom Verschwinden der Dinge aus der Fotografie (the disappearance of things in photography) exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna, in 1995 in the Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Idea and Effect. In Reminiscence of his Work in Contemporary Photography in the Kunsthalle Bielefeld and she was a guest at the Fotografie konkret concrete photography exhibition in the Museum im Kulturspeicher Würzburg in 2005/2006. These exhibitions placed her work as light design in an abstract photographic tradition which goes back to the 1920s. In only a few years she has established herself in art and photo history as well as in special photographic collections. Photography historian Gottfried Jäger went as far as to see her as „a pioneer of the abstract photographic art of colour“.
Her early success may be due to how she related photography and painting. Yet her works are from a time when colour began to win its place in photography under the influence of American photographers such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore. For many years ill-reputed as an advertising medium, as ideal for daily use and for the masses, but not as art, the apparent triviality of colour photography had a particular appeal for photographers who had committed themselves to realistic photography. It found its way into Folkwang School in Essen, where Andreas Gursky commenced his studies, and into the group around Becher School in Düsseldorf. The colour pigments may have lacked stability and the development process may have been so complex that it could only be carried out in a special lab, yet new technical processes for producing large formats in brilliant techniques promoted its usability for art and for image presentation.
Although she is named with photographers James Welling and Michael Wesely, Christiane Richter takes a somewhat opposing stand here. Even if she uses natural models such as those in her more recent photos, these models are alienated in the process of taking photos. They appear to have been submerged in white light and only give a fragmentary view of the subject. Grasses and fruit can be recognised and so can the ornamentation of a church window. In these photos Christiane Richter combines the possibility offered by photography to create monochrome coloured areas using light and exposure to light with the capacity to give rise to reflections and recollections. Despite concrete reminiscence, she does not create reality; instead she creates an abstract photograph in which objects are reduced to their formal appearance. It is easy to see from these photographs that Christiane Richter still sees herself as a photographic artist of colour. She remains committed to analogue photography even in this age of digital photography.
Dr. Beate Reese
Kunstmuseum Mülheim an der Ruhr
Article: Eyes in web
Download: Review Financieel Dagblad Christiane Richter