We first encountered the work of Anselm Kiefer in the Venice Biennale of 1997 - room after room dwarfed by the one or two paintings hung. We were unprepared for the effect: straw, mud, submarines, trees, words ... wow! The limited subdued palette of earth, ash, rust, crumble was more powerful than any dazzle of colour and shine. He delivered a knock-out blow.
More recently, as an Honorary Royal Academician, he has contributed one stunner of a punch to each Summer Exhibition. That show comes without explicatory labels, and so the mind has to rely on the evidence of the eyes fed through the emotions and memory to make something of these exquisitely powerful works.
I was anticipating the current Royal Academy exhibition with much excitement from the moment that I learned it was planned. Today I determined that I would approach my visit in the way that I have enjoyed the previous encounters: mostly without information. With the help of the catalogue I shall fill that in later.
For this post I am providing only one image: Hortus Conclusus, a collage of woodcuts. Kiefer's work really needs to be experienced. A small reproduction does neither the work nor the viewer any favours. One needs to be overwhelmed by both the size and three dimensionality of it. (Eirene has provided images from the exhibition in her blogged review here and some specific information here. And there are further reviews of the exhibition here, here, here, here, and here.)
I scribbled down a lot of seemingly incoherent notes while I viewed and marvelled. Here are some of them:
mythic/religious, construction/destruction, order/chaos, birth/death/birth, the marvels and messes of mankind
a beautiful ruin - why do we find ruins beautiful? can we cope only with historic destruction while avoiding any thoughts about current or recent destruction in which we may have been complicit? do we believe that we can always build better on what others have destroyed, or caused us to destroy?
monumental work showing the destruction of monuments.
hubris and its desserts/deserts
look and ye shall see, seek and ye shall find
I am jangling like a shop door propelled open in such a rush. In a few days I shall read the reviews linked above, and soon I shall read the catalogue, but for now I shall savour my still vivid emotional memories.