Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Inspirational research: Anselm Kiefer

 When I was a young student I wrote my dissertation on Anselm Kiefer and John Heartfield.  It was about art and media pre-World War II and post World War II.  Kiefer's work was the aftermath, the devastation both on Germany and the mental and physical impact on the people of Germany. 'As Kiefer has said in reference to this national legacy of World War II, “[A]fter the ‘misfortune,’ as we all name it so euphemistically now, people thought that in 1945 we were starting all over again. . . . . It’s nonsense. The past was put under taboo, and to dig it up again generates resistance and disgust.”' (Aklteveer, 2008).  I poured over books of his work, looked at obscure journals and watched many documentaries and films of the man and his work.  I had not actually seen any of this is real life.  After I had completed, years later there was an exhibition as the The Royal Academy where they were showing a large collection.  Kiefer's work is massive, huge the sheer size is overwhelming and also beautiful, awe-inspiring.  

This image is the image that I stood in front of and tears came to my eyes.  This image of the three empty chairs had always moved me in the books that I had but seeing it in overwhelming form where every brush stroke could be felt filled me with a complete sense of the work I could really feel it inside me.  The spiritual sense of the work also moved me as I thought of mass and how this connected to the image.  I attended a Anglo-Catholic Church just prior to getting married and was married in the same church in a very traditional Catholic Mass.  I always felt there that perhaps God could hear me and within the beautiful mass and the music from the choir I could feel a sense of peace.  In an essay it is written by Brooks Riley that Kiefer's;  'Quanternity--"depicting three small fires burning on the floor of a wooden attic and a snake writhing toward them, vestiges of the artist’s Catholic upbringing in the form of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost and the Devil. Metaphor meets reality in the sacred attics of stored mythologies."' (Anselm Kiefer: Fire in the Attic, 2019). The work that Kiefer produces uses many materials and this textural quality does make you want to touch and feel these works on your flesh. Kiefer is; 'widely hailed for his remarkable sense of materiality, Kiefer uses a variety of media to create works ranging from delicate watercolors to enormous multipart paintings to monumental sculptural installations composed of lead and steel.' (Major Survey Of Anselm Kiefer's Works At SFMOMA, 2006).  It is interesting that Kiefer's earliest surviving work is 'The Heavens (1969), a small collage book containing pictures of clouds and sky cut from magazines and affixed to white pages labeled with text. The artist’s use of fragmentary, rather than whole, images evokes the notion that heaven cannot be distilled into a single image or place but is better symbolized by fleeting impressions, a theme consistent in much of his art.' (Major Survey Of Anselm Kiefer's Works At SFMOMA, 2006)  The image above uses his studio space and fire, the other work that gives me almost the same sense of deep feeling is Fire in the Attic, the vast empty space with wood and fire bring to mind my own dreams of fire and rooms they inhabit. The image below shows the scale of the work and how as a viewer you are within the work, becoming part of it which is part of the reason this moved me as with the church is it feeling as if you are safe with God.


Aklteveer, I., 2008. Anselm Kiefer (born 1945). [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 May 2022].

SFMOMA. 2006. Major Survey Of Anselm Kiefer's Works At SFMOMA. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 May 2022].

Borges' Library. 2019. Anselm Kiefer: Fire in the Attic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 May 2022].

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