Anselm Kiefer

Yesterday I spent in London visiting the Anselm Kiefer retrospective at the RA. From seeing his work first hand rather than in books, you see the huge scale of some of his works and feel part of the work.
His work is concerned with cosmology and the connection between heaven and earth, each work seems to connect to the other. Change and decay is another theme running throughout with his paintings containing a range of materials such as straw, lead and even diamonds.
The start of the exhibition shows a series of works called ‘Occupations’ 1969 where Kiefer is photographed in different places in France, Italy and Switzerland performing the Nazi salute. This at the time was seen as outrageous and illegal. Kiefer says that he was not promoting Nazism but to confront it.
Large books made from card and plaster showed beautiful watercolour paintings. His early paintings showed links to German Romantic painting through subject matter of figures in the woods and his moody use of colour.
Later books are made from lead, Kiefer uses lead because of its weight and grey surface.Kiefer sees lead as the only material heavy enough to carry the weight of human history. In alchemy lead was to be transmuted into gold. Alchemy is a theme in Kiefer’s work. He looks to the writings of Robert Flood (1574-1637)an English astrologer, cosmologist, cabalist and alchemist.
Kiefer is also interested in poetry, Paul Celan (1920-70) whose parents were murdered in the holocaust. Kiefer’s paintings often include words.
The darkness of Kiefer’s paintings reflect the darkness of the history of which he is painting during the 70’s and 80’s.
Kiefer moved to France in 1992 and he began to travel the world. His work started to include structures he had seen in other countries, such as pyramids.
Starry skies and sunflowers are a response to his new environment in the south of France.Kiefer portrays wheat fields in his new series of paintings ‘ Morgenthau’ where he is also thinking of Henry Morgenthau Jr. Whose idea was that after the war Germany would be demilitarised and de industrialised.
Kiefer shows so many layers in his work literally through materials and through his thinking. He limits his palette and materials cleverly but the more looking allows the viewer to see more possibilities.

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