ARTYFACTS: Anselm Kiefer – Baltic centre

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anselm Kiefer – Baltic centre

The snow fell carried by an icy wind that blew down the Tyne as I walked across the eye of the bridge to the Baltic, a perfect adjustment of mood for that most northerly of artists, Anselm Kiefer. Anselm – were his parents so into the ontological argument? I always see Kiefer as being about imperfection, not perfection. Both he and his religious namesake specialise in huge thought experiments, but Kiefer’s post-Nietzsche, and God is in his grave.


Nietzsche saw this opera as a betrayal, a capitulation by Wagner into weak, Christian mythology. I suspect that Kiefer’s puts Parsifal into the same attic category, locking the myths up into a claustrophobic wooden loft (his own apparently). The crude images of a crib and swords, reduced to mock symbols. He locks it down even further with a grid of decreasing perspectival rectangles that have no vanishing point structure. Myths exists in the attic of consciousness as crude, causal catastrophe’s.


The pyramid is the Platonic form, forms transformed into God by Augustine. But there isn’t a single straight line or regular line in Kiefer’s whole painting. The man is in the same from beneath the pyramid, crushed by the transcendental pressure of the invented realm. What’s more, he’s half dressed. It’s an attack on the transcendental metaphysics that started with Plato, through Augustine to modern theological concepts of God, what Nietzsche called the 2000 year aberration. Even the messy ill-formed blocks of the pyramid are in opposition to the perfect mythological forms of Egyptian and Mayan forms, and the pyramid has collapsed in places and the horizon unclear.


The palette hangs on a burning rope or the primitive representation of that early religious symbol, the bull? All of this against a battleship grey background. Kiefer drains his canvases of colour not to let his art benefit from artifice. Kiefer at his un-impressionist best. I’m impressed.


Classic Kiefer; a baked grey and brown bird’s eye view of a skyscraper cityscape with wires for clouds. Not a natural square centimetre in this image, a created, built, concrete world, represented by the its own muck and detritus.

Palm Sunday

A huge palm tree, mud-brown, devoid of colour lies dead in front of 39 images of palm fronds and clothes. There is no resurrection, only death and decay. This is a brutal attack on Christianity through the de-deification of Jesus himself.

The Norns

A corbelled arch with a fire is reminiscent of railway arches and roman ruins, and the cold, limitless realm of death. The fire is the only sign of life, soon, like life, to extinguish itself.

Battleships (Velimir Chlebnikov)

Two submarines and five battleships hang on a vertical plane, all rusted hulls, twisted guns and ruined radar. Weary of war, the wrecked warships lie on a cracked seabed. All of that spent effort. The futility and waste of war at sea, above and beneath the surface of the sea. War on water – think about it – how strange.


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