It was suggested by my tutor that I look into the work of Anselm Kiefer. As I mentioned in the post here, I first glimpsed one of his monumental works in the RA summer 2020 virtual exhibition on YouTube. I’d never seen any of this artists’ work before and that piece really stood out for me – well, it does actually stand out from the wall, as do most of Kiefer’s mega-sculptural paintings!
It seems a tad obsessive, that an artist should be so consumed with the events of the Second World War, and in particular the Holocaust, when he was born after these events took place. Yet I suppose, people who were not born in Germany after the war, may not be able to grasp what happened socially and culturally. It is intimated in some of the information I’ve absorbed whilst researching Kiefer, that the memories and evidence of what took place during WW2 were in some ways almost eradicated or glossed over from the German mindset. I think Kiefer’s mission has been to make sure the Holocaust, particularly, is never forgotten. I think thats what drives all this work. Maybe I’m wrong on some of these points and what I’ve said is simplistic but that’s how I feel when I read about his life, and how others interpret his exhibitions.
I cannot feel the emotions that a German-born person would feel when looking at Kiefer’s work but I can still feel moved by it. And not because of the context, the poetry, the mythology and all other aspects that run through his works, but for the sheer scale and creative dynamism inherent in everything he touches.
THE MORGENTHAU PLAN
A plan drawn up by the US Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau Jr (b. 1891, d. 1967) which envisaged a postwar Germany as an agricultural, deindustrialized country which would be divided into a northern and a southern half, with the Rhineland, the North Sea coast, and other important strategic or industrial areas coming under international control. After initial acceptance by Roosevelt, it was quickly withdrawn as completely impractical, as such a Germany would continue to be reliant on foreign finance. The plan was used extensively by Goebbels in his Nazi propaganda to strengthen German resolve towards the end of World War II.https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100209776
In his painting process, Kiefer applies everything available to him (even lead) onto the canvas supports, including straw, metal, netting, branches, axes … he takes recycling to another level, it is almost extreme repurposing. The works all look like they are solid as concrete, layered and thick with texture, like they will last for millenia. But they are not, they are all very fragile – just watch the YouTube video by conservators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (below is the link) discussing the nightmare of looking after his large pieces. The works are made with so much force and energy but Kiefer himself doesn’t seem to care if they survive or not. I really admire that ethic. He does not appear at all precious about his gigantic paintings.
I have purchased a book featuring his watercolour work – Anselm Kiefer – Transition from Cool to Warm. I understand his watercolour work is quite marvellous, I will try and post about that if I get time.
Jones, J. (2020). Anselm Kiefer review – an apocalyptic epitaph for the liberal age. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/21/anselm-kiefer-review-walhalla-white-cube-bermondsey [Accessed 04/12/2020]
Jones, J. (2020). Anselm Kiefer review – terrifying odyssey through a cursed world. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/nov/15/anselm-kiefer-review-white-cube-bermondsey-london [Accessed 04/12/2020]
Valcárcel, M. (05/06/2017) Anselm Kiefe r:Flowers and the Poetry of Paul Celan [online] Alejandra de Argos Available at: https://www.alejandradeargos.com/index.php/en/artp/41429-anselm-kiefer-flowers-paul-celan [Accessed 04/12/2020]
Davies. E. S. Final Major Project – Anselm Kiefer Essay [online] Available at: https://ebanskydaviesfmp.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/anselm-kiefer-essay/ [Accessed 04/12/2020]
Books (en route – not read at time of this post)
Lawrence, J & Knausgard, K.O. Anselm Kiefer: Transition from Cool to Warm (2018) Gagosian/Rizzoli
Corey D’Augustine and Steven Zucker. The conservator’s eye: Anselm Kiefer, Bohemia Lies by the Sea (2017) [Online] YouTube [Accessed 2/12/2020] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ-zBvrs8CQ
Bellis Vintage Anselm Kiefer Inside an Artists Studio (2015) [Accessed 2/12/200] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsRIXZr6l7s&t=463s
The Art Channel Anselm Kiefer at White Cube (2017) [Accessed 3/12/2020] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW-SzBf1Z1k&t=456s
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2019) Anselm Kiefer: History is a clay [Accessed 03/12/2020] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPEcPn85D8w
Source for screenshot/edited image of ‘Vier Plus Eins’ painting by Anselm Kiefer: https://se.royalacademy.org.uk/2020/artworks/anselm-kiefer-hon-ra/126 [Accessed 04/12/2020]
All other images of Anselm Kiefer’s work used in this post were sourced from http://www.alejandradeargos.com