Posts Tagged ‘art review’


The Gerhard Richter, Arvo Part project for the 2015 Manchester International Festival ran from 9th to 19th July. It was based at Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery.

The Gerhard Richter paintings


Richter displayed four works for the project. They were Double Grey (2014), and the three pieces that comprise Birkenau (2015).

Birkenau consists of three blocks of four paintings each. Each of the four combines with the others to make a complete piece.
The paintings are based on photographs of Birkenau, taken by a prisoner in 1944. Richter’s  signature overpainting and squeegee application creates layers and layers of paint, whilst also revealing the layering by stripping away parts, areas, of top layers.
Accident is an element in the effect, but it is controlled accident; the care with which Richter employs both paint and squeegee has a fine degree of finesse.

Each section of each block does not fully meet; the effect is deliberate, it leaves the white of the wall between the sections showing through. This produces a thin white cross within the overall painting.

Double Grey takes up three walls of the exhibition space. Each piece is a double unit. The work consists of large sheets of enameled glass, enameled matt grey. The surface glass is shiny, clear, but the reverse side rendered opaque. Each glass sheet is a double statement in effect.


The Arvo Part contribution to the collaborative project was an excerpt from a five song sequence. The sequence was performed as a full concert at The Bridgewater Hall, in the evenings. The full score of performed works was: Fratres; Stabat Mater; Como cierva Sedienta; Da Pacem Domine;  Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima.
Prices were in the range of £16 to £36.

The excerpt performed in combination with the paintings was ‘Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima’.
Notes inform us that Part took the vision of three young Portugese shepherd children. The vision was of the Virgin Mary, known as Our Lady of Fatima. This was in 1917.
There were three prophecies recorded with the vision, one of each was said to refer to the outbreak of World War 2.
This is the tie-in with the Richter paintings, much as the thin white cross in the paintings acknowledges Arvo’s deep Catholic sensibility.
The period marked by the collaboration saw the first overt expression of the disaster that was to befall both Germany and Estonia. It was a disaster that changed their worlds utterly, and held their countries locked in their own and Communist struggles from 1945 to 1990. Both artist and musician lived through the Third Reich and Cold War division and retrenchment. Richter was born in East Germany, and only moved to the West in 1961, in his twenties.

The exhibition’s opening three days hosted the Estonian choir Vox Clemantis, to sing the Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima. Thereafter local choirs took on the performances in the presence of the paintings, two each day, one each morning, and likewise an afternoon performance. Thursday 16th July hosted an evening performance in addition. The William Byrd singers performed the day I was able to attend.
Not all performances were alike; I was informed the morning’s choir, the Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir, favoured a stronger contrast of bass and contralto, whilst the William Byrd preferred a mellower, more restrained palette of sound. This brought out the rhythm, and highlighted a more chamber-music  tonal sound for the setting of the gallery’s enclosed space.