Daniel Richter: I Should Have Known Better review

3 out of 5 stars
Daniel Richter: I Should Have Known Better review
© Daniel Richter/DACS, London 2018. Photo: Jochen Littkemann

Men are obsessed with sex. I mean, really, it’s a miracle we can keep from blurting out our perverted mental meanderings for any extended period of time at all: a real triumph of evolution and societal conditioning. German painter Daniel Richter (no relation to Gerhard) seems to have no such filter. The works in this show of new paintings are the furious sploogings of the most carnal desires.

In every near-abstract work, groups of bodies mangle and bisect. Leering figures thrust at a kneeling porcine creature, their faces contorted in pain or ecstasy, the hands gripped like gnarled claws. Legs are spread and splayed, backs are arched, mouths gasp. It’s violent, aggressive, and very unsexy.

The main contrast is between flat gradients of background colour and the rushed ejaculate of the fierce brushstrokes. It’s all very composed, but somehow wild and free too.

The trick seems to lie in the semi-abstraction. By being unobvious, by building bodies out of flowing single lines and faces out of gruff scribbles, Richter forces the viewer to construct the images in their head. They’re like horrifying riddles that go from opaque meaning to sudden, shocking clarity, and once you’ve figured them out, you can’t return to your ignorance. All this sex and humping is happening in your mind, not on the canvas, you dirty old dog. It’s a clever trick, but it doesn’t make for the most satisfying of visual experiences – it gets you going, is what I mean, but it doesn't lead to much of a climax. 

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