Anselm Kiefer - Gallerie Thaddaeus Ropac
I was recently asked what I like so much about Anselm Kiefer.
A simple question, yet not that easy to answer: Ever since I first laid eyes on Kiefer’s Wege der Weltweisheit: Die Hermannsschlacht, I felt his art reverberate deep inside the nether regions of my DNA in a manner that resembled a feeling of connectedness. A connectedness that I am now able to indulge in on a weekly basis after my runs as the woodcut is being exhibited in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
I felt a charge, was intrigued from the get-go and throughout my travels and stints on different continents made sure to pilgrimage to wherever I could experience Kiefer’s multi-faceted, sometimes melancholic and often confrontational emissions in the flesh.
Experiencing Anselm Kiefer’s artwork in the third dimension is akin to unlocking atavisms inside of me – it provides a veil to give form to incomprehensible abstract concepts that make perfect sense, yet I would find myself hard-pressed to put into words. This includes not only adding depth and dimensions to the significance and effects of historical events but also phenomena that might sound odd to the uninitiated, e.g. experiencing the cosmological aspects of sunflowers or receiving information radiating from within the materials used for his art.
It would be difficult to recommend a starting point to venture into Kiefer’s cosmos as in the past forty years, his artistic endeavours could not be more varied, layered and symbolic and some meant to remain literal “works in progress”, i.e. the materials being highly textured and tactile with the underlying intent for the individual components to interact, disintegrate and eventually dissolve.
Born in 1945 and having been a student of Joseph Beuys, the exploration of Germany’s post-war identity has been a major theme throughout Kiefer’s work. However, what he channelled through his lens did not just stop with Germany’s fraught history but eventually started to encompass human history and rituals of memorialisation at large, which branched out into the artistic interpretation of cabalistic and religious concepts as well as channelling his deep connection with books and literature through his art, often using hand-written references and quotes to either accompany or juxtapose his artwork.
Needless to say that I was elated when I learned about Anselm Kiefer’s current exhibition being dedicated to a series inspired by one of Germany’s most prominent poets of the Middle Ages, i.e. Walther von der Vogelweide.
With this series being multi-layered in nature, the densely painted surfaces pictorially decipher, decode and balance the dichotomy of beauty and decay with von der Vogelweide’s poems serving as the guiding principle, anchoring each artwork and through symbiosis and evoking associations connected to historic, mythological and cultural events.
Not unlike with his previous incarnations, Kiefer actively resists to create affirmative art, which is further elaborated on in Galerie Ropac’s comprehensive catalogue, released to accompany the Walther von der Vogelweide exhibition, including illuminating commentary along with conversation between Anselm Kiefer and gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac.
Gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac has a long-standing history with Anselm Kiefer and while I have unfortunately not been able to visit any of their exhibitions or their galleries in Salzburg, Paris and London, the wonderful books that are still available from Ropac are an experience in themselves and give a carefully curated impression of what I have missed out on.
An example par excellence is the book that was published on the occasion of the exhibition Fu?r Andrea Emo, which not only details the monumental canvases and sculptures, but also includes extracts of Anselm Kiefer’s diary, shedding light on the thoughts that inspired the use of boiling lead on canvases to create a palimpsest illustrating the concepts of regeneration and destruction – themes that were inherent in Emo’s nihilistic reflections.
The exhibition Im Gewitter der Rosen and the accompanying book brings this expose full circle as apart from Arthur Rimbaud’s absinthe-tinged poetry and Ingeborg Bachmann’s prose work, one of the main leitmotifs is the aforementioned Walther von der Vogelweide.
In his idiosyncratic manner, Kiefer uses the metaphorical poems to inspire his storm-riddled, multi-layered sedimentary paintings, which at times look more like they were “dripped” rather than formally painted. The sculptures of this series see the recurring incorporation of sunflowers and glass against the backdrop of the firmament, evoking connections between natural forces as well as micro- and macroscopic concepts and on a grander scheme, the cycle of life.
image from gallery website