Anselm Kiefer

London, Royal Academy for the Anselm Kiefer show.

Anselm Kiefer post-Holocaust German artist.

He is important in that he is the first German artist to tackle the Holocaust, His imagery merges with his German culture: the wood, the forest and the woodcut (think Durer).

The early works are really brave. To be the first to say something really uncomfortable, something nobody wanted to say or look at and not know how you will be received, whether your compatriots will lynch you, beg you to be silent or ignore you is very brave. He puts all that German culture, forests, Wagner, mythology up there with what happened, that insanity, that moment when stupid, inhuman brutality ran riot with a cold ruthless amorality.

But 40 years later he goes on painting it. I felt it was no longer art. It was starting to become a commodity.

Did I like it? Generally no. There were some brilliant pieces. The more abstract and the more spiritual and some of the early work. But the later work becomes what he mocks; monumental, butch posturing, heroic and rather obvious.

Ultimately, I found his work very documentary; more commentary than art. In 100 years I don’t reckon it will stand up as great art. It is stunning comment at the time, or at the first time, but with very literal, heavy and obvious symbolism. It lacks the lightness of touch of a Renaissance Italian painting which too is littered with symbolism. It lacks the spiritual depth of a Rothko or Barnett Newman. It says nothing new. It Is more reportage. It could be journalism. It doesn’t rock my soul. It doesn’t show me something I didn’t know. Maybe it showed the Germans new at the time; something they were in denial about, but, in fact, did know. It maybe revealed to them what they need to deal with, but it has become heavy and repetitive with very few moments of real insight.

But well done to him for doing that. For telling it like it is.



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