Gerhard Richter Tate Modern exhibition banner

Richter was en route to New York on 11 September 2001 when his plane was diverted to Canada. Some years later he began work on a painting based on a photograph of the World Trade Center attacks.

Though the canvas shows the moment after the second plane hit, Richter refused to paint the fireball depicted in the most spectacular photographs of the catastrophe. The painting was worked over with a knife as if to acknowledge the impossibility of painting such a subject. Yet the scrapes of paint produce marks eerily recalling the aircraft that were destroyed.

Around this time Richter made some of his most spare abstract paintings, many on small sheets of Aludibond, a plastic-aluminium composite, followed by near-monochrome paintings on expansive canvases. These have sometimes been associated with landscape painting.

Another relationship between abstraction and figuration is worked out in Bouquet 2009 where a still life of flowers is partly obscured through the use of a squeegee.