As we turn the imaginary pages of Anselm Kiefer’s paintings, we dive into ourselves. Melded metal with pastel colours splattered over the canvas’ surfaces transport us into an enchanted world where beauty dances lovingly with darkness.
This exhibition of new works is a homage to nihilist Andrea Emo, a 20th century Italian philosopher. Together with Emo, Kiefer goes back in time digging up memories where the truth will eventually emerge, bright and clear. The present, according to Emo, belongs to the past, buried in recollections that we ought to destroy to create our new selves.
History and collective memory are Kiefer’s devoted obsessions. His life, commencing from his youth was rocked by the severity and claustrophobic aftermath of World War II Germany. His memories, marked forever by a country plunged into distress and guilt, emerge in his large scaled paintings and his imprisoned glass-vitrine sculptures, gripping the viewer, poignantly.
The new pieces at Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin follow the same lineage as his prior works. The same sombre landscapes, same materials and same emotional squall, yet rendered slightly differently.
Twirls of lead and impressionist landscapes share the canvases, producing a three-dimensional space, inviting symbolic snakes and straw to complete the final creations.
Kiefer poured the lead onto old, unwanted paintings, manufacturing abstract forms which resemble the pages of a book, angel’s wings or Torah scrolls.
What erupts from the subconscious minds of both Kiefer and the viewer is a constellation of emotional thoughts. Behind the dark lead’s weight hanging gracefully over an innocent colour palette, hides our truth. Without any signs of anger or despair as he mentions in his carnet, Kiefer contemplates the results of history burning on his past self.
If the lead intrigues up close with its grainy texture and severity, it strikes even more from afar. A layer of dirt violently explodes across a still landscape, bursting imperfection over the serenity of a bright scenery. The paintings when seen from a distance come to life. It seems that Kiefer has not poured lead onto an existing surface but rather has scratched a hindering layer, his own skin, searching for answers.
As a result, a mixture of past, present and future coexist engendering into the reality of the gallery.
As usual in Kiefer’s art, the viewers are never left alone. Perhaps this stems from the fact that he is still alive and through his tumultuous experimentations, we are unafraid to follow his steps.
Hand in hand with the artist, exploring the layers of our own selves, moving inside our own bodies, into the worrying torments and the delicious glimpses of joy inhabiting our souls, we advance from one painting to another, turning imaginary pages.
Für Andrea Emo: Anselm Kiefer at Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin (11 February – 31 May 2018)