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Anselm Kiefer: Poetry, alchemy and flame-throwers

[ 19 November 2014 | Print This Post ]
19 November 2014

A colossus of contemporary art came to talk about his life and work to a sell-out audience in Hampstead last night.

German artist, Anselm Kiefer, was in conversation with Tim Marlow, the art historian and commentator on the contemporary cultural scene who became the Royal Academy’s Director of Artistic Programmes, in April this year.

This was a rare talk given by Kiefer while the Royal Academy holds the first ever retrospective of his work which ends of December 14th.

Kiefer’s extraordinary body of work includes painting, sculpture and quite simply monumental installations. Uncompromising in the subject matter he tackles, Kiefer’s work powerfully captures the human experience and draws on history, mythology, literature, philosophy and science.

Full of brave and provocative work, this exhibition is a testament to the career of a man driven to confront himself and the audience with the big and complex issues of our world’s past, present and future.

The artist creates giant, densely textured, paintings, sculptures and installations at his 35,000 square meter studio in Paris, using a wide variety of materials, ranging from straw and lead to oil paints and watercolours, and working with implements that include knives, axes and flame throwers.

Poetry, alchemy and Germany’s Third Reich are themes that run through Kiefer’s work, and these were discussed in-front of a sell-out audience who had come to hear this third conversation in The Alan Howard Foundation / JW3 Speaker Series.

Born one month before the end of World War Two, in March 1945, Kiefer said the war ruins he played in as a child were inspirational.

“When I see films of Germany in ruins, for me these are the most beautiful pictures, because I was born in these pictures, and with these ruins you can do new things, it is a beginning, not the end.”

Struck by the image of the young Kiefer playing among the ruins, Marlow asked the artist, known for the seriousness of his work, whether he played when working.

“You have to play otherwise you cannot be an artist,”answered Kiefer, “You want to change the world, you want to put molecules together, so you have to play with them.”

Living in Paris, not Germany, made him more self-aware, said Kiefer. “You discover your character and roots better when you are outside.”


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