Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy

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Sulamith

(Image taken from; http://0.tqn.com/y/arthistory/1/S/y/w/ddfc_2010_sfmoma_06.jpg)

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Margarete
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Yesterday I went along to London for a Fine Art trip, in order to view the new exhibition of Anselm Kiefer’s work at the RA. I’d heard of Kiefer, but never gone out of my way to view his works. As I wandered into the space; My mind seemed to explode at the sheer power of his work.  It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time, almost like witnessing the work of god. The first two pieces that I became enthralled with was the dual pieces ‘ Sulamith’ & ‘Margarete’; based on a poem by Paul Celan, titled ‘Death Fugue’. The poem details events within a concentration cam, recounted to him by camp survivors, and is often cited as an extremely ark retelling of these events. ‘Sulamith’ was known for her dark hair, which is woven into the painting’s imagery through the use of dark colours and ash, whereas ‘Margarete’ was known for her Golden hair, symbolised by the straw attached to the surface of the canvas. These are the beginnings of Kiefer’s forays into the materiality of the piece, into the extension of the image from the canvas, towards the viewer. These works are so powerful; especially the difference between the natural gold of ‘Margarete’, and the dark, black industrial locale of ‘Sulamith’, blackened by the somber smoke billowing from the fire in the distance.

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‘Ashen Flower’

The most daunting thing about Kiefer’s work is the sheer size of it; each work dominates a space, forcing us to be humbled by each seperate piece. ‘Ashen Flower’ is a very intriguing work, once again we see a backdrop of an old building of the Third Reich; dominating, terrifying, dark, it is crafted through a combination of  paint, clay, dust and stone; mimicking the rather poignant idea that Hitler put forth in their construction; ‘Hitler himself ordering that all such building should be made from stone, so as to create beautiful ruins.’ The painting has this beautiful ‘ashen’ look to it, accentuated by the muted palette, and the old, dried out sunflower ever-so carefully hung from the top of the painting, striking a soft, fragile line down the centre of the canvas. It is hauntingly beautiful, accentuating the death that surrounds these old buildings; the atrocities that plagued so many people, the terror they have felt, lies as nothing but ash on the grounds of these buildings. They are monumental, for their actions, and they are cold, uninhabited places these days. It is wonderfully dark, and touches on the morbid curiosity that all humans feel, causing us to look back at the awful past, and stare; stare in morbid curiosity at what we are capable of doing.

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Osiris & Isis

(Image taken from; http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8294/7744449742_fbd977133c_o.jpg)

Another piece focusing on ‘collage’; ‘Osiris & Isis’ is a work influenced by Kiefer’s travels through the silk line. Witnessing the monumental power of the pyramids, as well as the old kilns that were erected during the reign of Chairman Mao, ideas began to form within his head of great monoliths constructed of clay, the same clay that the bible describes humans are made of. These concepts, when melded together, give birth to thoughts of the human condition being measured by the weight of clay; of it’s materiality and texture dictating the work that we create. We often work with clay ourselves, in order to create small figurines and effigies that we hope to push our hopes and dreams on, and we call them our children. This work also holds a rather peculiar object; the circuit board of an old television, which then connects to the broken shards of clay structures. The circuit lies at the top of the pyramid, within the sky; pulling forth ideas of the pyramids being ancient, mystical megalithic sculptures. Is there some sort of power at this place, harnessed by our ancestors to create the structure? Or is there more to the image of the circuitry? Does it provide life to the clay vessel, a rather apt metaphor for the physical presence of our own human bodies? or is it more of a nod to the melding of ancient and of modern, of the fact that molecules never die, and will be present for the rest of eternity?

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‘Ages of the World’

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An installation built specifically for this show within the royal Academy, ‘Ages of the World’ is a stack of Kiefer’s old, unfinished work, seemingly cast down upon the floor, then piled high above the heads of it’s audience; a monument to failure, to defeat. As you walk around the piece, you begin to become aware of it’s likeness to a ‘Totem’, we worship this piece, despite the connotations of discarding, and regard it as a fascinating piece of work. It also brings forth ideas of the importance of everything, these pieces are so powerful in themselves, despite Kiefer perceiving them as not worthy of the gallery, but acknowledges that they have still had their effect in shaping him to be who he is today. The name in itself is a work of art, bringing forth Kiefer’s own beliefs in alchemy and the continuing cycle of our life, aims to describe a passage of time that we cannot even begin to comprehend. An eon of time, an era of history, that our feeble human minds cannot even begin to comprehend. It is at once terrifying, and at once fascinating, much like the rest of the body of his work.

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I also came across a rather large splatter of blood on my walk through London, just by the river Thames near the Houses of Parliament. Strange, I thought London was quite nice in some parts, but obviously not.

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