Anselm Keifer Review RA
Is Anselm Keifer a German hero for modern times?
The Academy’s galleries are filled with impressive paintings and installations. The curation of the exhibition, which is Keifer first major retrospective in the UK, starts in a small gallery in which books watercolours and early drawings are displayed. The works on exhibit at the Royal Academy span nearly 50 years of Keifer’s career and are shown in chronological order and present the different media he has used, from photography and sculpture to painting and installations. Few artists have ever dominated Burlington house the way Keifer has. His giant painting ‘Ash Flower’ (fig 1), which is 4 meters tall and 7 meters wide took him 15 years to paint from 1983-1997. Looking into the surface of the painting there are many movements, which carefully built up from layers of wood, photographs and ash; the symbolism of the sunflower depicts hope coming from the ashes of the Nazi regime. This use of mixed media creates a link to the art movements of modernism and post modernism that uses cross-disciplinary and mixed media. But his work also relates to the Avant Garde Movement (1940-50) because of its fragmented images that the artist Jackson Pollock also used fragmentation of images such as the work of the artist Jackson Pollock.
Keifer was born in 1945 when Germany had just left the claws of the Third Reich and re-entered the world. Kiefer’s works express his interest in German history. The painting Heroic Symbol. Ironic? depicts heroism and also the after effects Germany suffered once the war ended. This profound imagery was also used in a photograph Kiefer produced in 1969; it is of a person giving the Nazi salute. This is where Kiefer’s work links to Postmodernism and understanding the image, the role of language and the social culture changes over 5-20 years. This shocked the world, however it was designed to remind the world of the horror of war. These confrontational acts were to remind people of the devastating effects of Nazism.
Kiefer also shows Germany’s evil under the Nazis and the defeat they suffered. This is where the painting ‘Varus 1976’ (fig 2) stands out. In this Keifer portrays a German forest winter scene, but with blood dripping down the trunks of the trees and into the snow. The
of the work refers to the Roman General Publius Quinctilius Varus who was defeated by Arminius in the Battle of the Teutobury Forest in 9CE. Arminius German tribes were victorious over the Roman army.
Kiefer’s works are amazing; they are passionate, powerful and also very moving. Viewers need time to just observer them for what they are and what they depict. So is Keifer a German hero for modern times? Probably one of the greatest living artisst today . Keifer’s works are moving and extraordinary.