Gerhard Richter, Natalia and me

Sometimes a few quite unrelated aspects of one’s life come together and create a new synthesis.

I am in Basel, Switzerland, twice a year to teach at the World Peace Academy and I am fortunate to know Natalia B, a young Russian, who studies European affairs in that beautiful art-packed city. When there, I take photos of her, mainly portraits.

Last year, the Tinguely Museum in Basel held an exhibition on the themes of art and cars and car culture and we went there together also to see whether that unique environment would function as backdrop for some pictures. And this is where Gerhard Richter, Germany’s perhaps most important living artist, comes into the picture – literally speaking. 

One of the paintings in the exhibition was his Two Fiats (1964) driving fast through a wood. Many of his paintings appear almost as photographic works. So does this one. I got the spontaneous idea of asking Natalia to stand in front of painting. I admit it was a daring experiment in front of – or inside – a master’s work.


Natalia in Gerhard Richter’s painting “Two Fiats”
© Jan Oberg 2011

In contrast to the blurred trees and moving cars, she became a fixed, sharp element. Natalia’s very straight-backed pose offers a third white, vertial figure corresponding with the trees in the background.

I deliberately did not place her between the two cars, and later I cropped the image slightly to avoid making it a photo of Richter’s painting but, rather, using it as a photography.

I avoided flash to give it a soft character and leave no shadow on the painting itself.

Painting and photography are two very different, but related, methods to see the world. For instance, Gerhard Richter and David Hockney have grappled with these two media all the time. I am interested in exploring how they are – can be – related.

I believe I caught a young woman in the midst of a blurred, fast moving world. I also put a reflecting human being in the foreground of technology and nature with no anthropocentrism intended.



Natalia in Gerhard Richter’s Painting “Two Fiats”
Inkjet print on Canson fine arts paper or on canvas
Formats & prices (excl postage):
A5 (148 × 210 mm) – Edition unlimited, 20 US$
A4 (210 × 297 mm) – Edition 50, US$ 115
A3+ (329 x 483 mm) – Edition 25, US$ 225
A1 (610 x 910 mm) – Edition 10, US$ 750
Signed and numbered.
Comes with print authenticity documentation.
© Jan Oberg

Would love to read your views, ideas or suggestions here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.