Many of Richter’s most admired paintings are made in a multi-step process of representations. He starts with a photograph, which he has found or taken himself, and projects it onto his canvas, where he traces it for exact form. Taking his color palette from the
photograph, he paints to replicate the look of the original picture.
His hallmark "blur"—sometimes a softening by the light touch of a soft
brush, sometimes a hard smear by an aggressive pull with his
squeegee—has two effects: 1. It offers the image a photographic
appearance; and 2. Paradoxically, it testifies the painter’s actions,
both skilled and coarse, and the plastic nature of the paint itself. In some paintings blurs and smudges are severe enough to disrupt the
image; it becomes hard to understand or believe. The subject is
nullified. In these paintings, images and symbols (such as landscapes,
portraits, and news photos) are rendered fragile illusions, fleeting
conceptions in our constant reshaping of the world.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art also has an online exhibit of Richter’s work. Actor Jude Law once compared his process for creating characters to Richter’s photo paintings.
"What I try to do is to start out perfectly clear and then
kind of smudge things. You don’t want anything to
seem too perfect. Gerhard Richter does it in those
abstract paintings, where he paints the canvas and
then scrapes across it. The effect is really forceful
— they’ve got motion, but they’re out of focus."