Research- Anselm Kiefer (1945-)

HEAVY CLOUD by Anselm Kiefer (German, born Donaueschingen, 1945)
Lead and shellac on photograph, mounted on board
Dimensions: 23 3/8 x 34 1/2 in. (59.4 x 87.6 cm)
Classification: Drawings

The above image (as a link) is how Kiefer illustrates a message of contamination; the lead cloud is dripping shellac which drips down onto earth.  Heavy Cloud is transcribing the scientific process of heavy water which is created with heavy Hydrogen which enables neutrons to split uranium in a process of nuclear fission. In nuclear reactors, the splitting of uranium heats fuel, which can be used to produce electricity. Kiefer has questioned that even though lead is used “to seal radiation, as an envelope for this very dangerous stuff,” the possibility is; there is a risk of a radiation leak.

From My research I have found that Kiefer uses numerous materials or matter in his work and I wanted to know why?

Kiefer treats photography the same as non painterly materials such as straw, earth; lead ect. They are all redeemed as matter for the construction of his paintings or drawings like ‘Heavy Cloud’. My thoughts on this is; how do we classify work as photographs, paintings, drawings, collage, sculptures, ect?

Much of the writings are differentiating between Kiefer and Gerhard Richter as the two artists played a major role depicted the banished (therefore historical repression), the atrocities of a fascist regime associated with German History. Richter style and technique documents the mediation of dissociation from the horrors of the past and re-associate within another time with photographs, found media with regards to his ongoing work ‘Atlas’

Richter presents the past in a neat categorized package as seen with the work ‘Atlas’, he is representing historical experience and constructing conceptions of historical memory. If we see a subject/object in the form of a photograph, generally we believe it actually happened or was captured so was real, but also knowing it could have been taken out of its context, so there is a feeling of sceptic certainty.

Kiefer work is German Expressionism, its his own historical representation painted. Therefore the capacity of the medium of paint is being questioned, Can it really represent historical experience?

‘October 1977’ by Richter consists of 15 oil paintings taken from newspapers that reported on the suspected suicides of contained (by German state police) members of the red army fraction; A left wing terrorist group condemned for kidnapping and killing during the 1970’s.  These paintings are blurred, dark and haunting, they are expressive but have a documentary context. My thoughts are that the two mediums can coexist as forms to represent historical experiences. ‘The Death of the Author’ by Roland Barthes comes to mind when writing about perceptions.

“…the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” Barthes p.148.

All experiences are our own, to converse these experiences, then someone may be experiencing them passively , but they will never experienced what the self experienced. What ever form of expression is needed to create expression, for it to be successful , you need viewers, readers and generally someone else.  The authenticity of auratic originality or an object, or as a craft that generates a unique aesthetic experience that is in the form of Painting, is never questioned by Kiefer.

To understand the above works, the events of the past need to be acknowledged; German art in 1988 was a project of dismantling postwar historical repression. In the 1960’s , the differences culminated between the work of Richter and Kiefer. At this time, Nouveau realism and pop art were popular artistic practices and Richter wanted to place German painting somewhere in relation to these movements. Kiefer seems to denounce this affiliation and could be considered ‘anti-modernism’. Renationalise and re-regionalize culture production was another avenue taken at the time as the culture was subjected to the ideology of inherited destruction so to divert away from the historical atrocities associated with their race.

“…by the critique of the very idea that a model of national identity could be articulated by cultural production- that Richter and Kiefer can be situated”. Foster .P.613.

The two artists were considered mediators of Germans cultural progression. Kiefer addressed the legacy of German Nazi fascism and Richter incorporates events of German political life recent past as in the series of works- October 1977.


Art work accessed on 12/08/2017 The Met.

Art since 1900. Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-alan Bois and Benjamin H.D. Buchloh. Thames and Hudson Ltd publishing. London 2004

Image music text. By Roland Barthes. Published by Fountain press London. 1977

Link accessed on 12/8/2017. MOMA with reference to the art works mentioned by Richter; Atlas and October 1977.






One thought on “Research- Anselm Kiefer (1945-)

  1. Pingback: Assignment 5 work in progress | MelindaW Painting 1

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