This month I went to the massive Kiefer exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. It spread across many rooms, and showed how his style and way of work has changed throughout his immense career. I had always known Kiefer for his large scale textured pieces using materials such as acrylic, emulsion and shellac. Because of this, it was very interesting to see some of his earlier works which lacked this built up surface, such as Heroic Symbol V.
To be completely honest, I did not particularly like his earlier work. With the piece above, I found the composition quite confusing and unattractive. I don’t like how the statues look like have been randomly placed there. However, the lone figure at the bottom of the piece does appear in Kiefer’s other works. I like this consistency and theme regarding the Second World War.
One collection of his which I really loved were his lead books. I like the idea of having a massive object full of sketches and other images, telling a story with the help of only a few words and phrases. You go through a journey when flicking between the heavy and sturdy pages. They have these incredible surfaces and a distressed look about them; the way time has effected them over the years adds more character and beauty.
With the piece named Eroticism in the Far East, I was drawn to its sensual nature. The red stains create the shape of a naked human body, and the deep pinks and reds create a sense of lust and desire. It is a very vulnerable piece, and more delicate than much of his other work. It contrasts with his large scale, heavy duty, dark and mysterious work. It is also interesting how the different colour shades have come together. The watercolours have flown into each other, but still create their dominant and strong edges. For example, the mixed tones at the top of the chest look like bruises on the skin.
Tandaradei (2014) was one of my favourites from the exhibition. I love the texture and mixed media; it gives the work so much life and energy. The use of colour further adds to it, creating a contrast between the bold beautiful flowers and their dark surroundings, that look like they may be decaying. This makes you question whether Kiefer is looking at death and re-birth with this images. Kiefer’s quote “Ruins, for me, are the beginning. With the debris, you can construct new ideas. They are symbols of a beginning.” definitely comes into play here. With these built up pieces, you have so much to study and explore that you never get bored. Every time you look at it you discover something new and different.
The exhibition was wonderful; I really enjoyed reading more about Kiefer himself when entering each room. You have the opportunity to learn in greater depth about this monumental work from one of the world’s greatest artists. You won’t be disappointed.
Anselm Kiefer is on at the Royal Academy of Arts from 27th September – 14 December 2014. Main Galleries, Burlington House.
Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm
Friday 10am – 10pm
Photographs from: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/anselm-kiefer#gallery