Tim Adams on Anselm Kiefer

White Cube unveils a retrospective of Kiefer's work
Anselm Kiefer, 'Tempelhof' 2010-11. Oil, acrylic, terracotta and salt on canvas. Photo: Ben Westoby
From Tim Adams (New Statesman):
It comes as no surprise, I guess, to discover that there was a time when Anselm Kiefer believed he might be a Second Coming. Though he was only four when he had his intimations of immortality, the artist has subsequently made an extraordinary life's work of grim sacrifices and unlikely resurrections of one kind or another.

Kiefer was born in 1945 in the Black Forest garrison town of Donaueschingen, midnight's child. He spent his first months in the cellar of the family house, ears stopped up with wax to shut out the noise of the Allied air raids. He was a malnourished squeal of life in a place that was all about destruction. While his mother went out for food, Kiefer found all the toys he needed in the bricks and ashes of the place. "The ruins, the dust, this is where I begin from," he is apt to say - and he is referring not only to the circumstances of his birth but to the sense of possibility he has had every time he faces a blank canvas.

His studios tend to re-create his childhood on a vast scale. The raw materials of his art are bundles of wire, rolls of lead, uprooted trees, emulsion, shellac, ash, concrete, the fabric of children's clothes, earth, bricks, seeds (these stand for hope and keep him going). In his sculpture and his painting he mingles the organic with the inorganic, in the way Bomber Harris and his squadrons managed so comprehensively in raids on the Rhineland.

Kiefer's large-scale show at White Cube in London, which opens on 16 October, will return him to some of these ever-present themes. Called "The Fertile Crescent", it takes its title from a phrase coined by the American Egyptologist James Henry Breasted, who used it to describe the great river societies in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates, which early-20th-century German scholars claimed as the birthplace of western civilisation. A series of paintings, their surfaces thick with debris, will pick through the ruins of those civilisations, now crumbled in the desert. [Read More]

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