Oil, Acrylic, Watercolour, Gouache, Woodcut prints, Emulsion
Straw, Branches, Aquatec latex, Shellac, Ink, Collage
Scorch marks on photograph, Clay, Ash, Sand, Earth
Dried sunflower and seeds, Copper, Burnt books, Lead, Plaster, Brick
Metal agricultural pieces, Volcanic stone, Polystyrene, Silver/Gold leaf
Cardboard, Plants, Sediment of electrolysis, Used pair of shoes
A list longer than my arm. Kiefer’s use of mixed media blew me away. He takes it to another level… or five. Resurgent. A re-birth. Full of life. Renewal. Restoration. A reawakening of the soul and senses. How it feels to experience pain and loss. Yet feel wonder, joy… the resurrection of nature and life.
Wandering around the extensive rooms at the Royal Academy last week its hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale and expansive realms of his works. These are markers for his life. His past, present and future. Taking in the rooms one by one I was blown away by his use of diverse mixed media. Its one of the main reasons why I was desperate to go see this show, as well as wanting to see the huge scale of his canvases. He’s an inspiration to me on many levels. As a contemporary landscape painter there’s currently no better works to see than his.
The beginning of his journey starts us in a visual melody of watercolour drawings based on winter landscape and fields of war. There are paintings based on Norse mythology depicting early German history. Forests and ploughed fields depicting places of refuge as well as great battle scenes. His love of books which to him are intimate visual diaries of paintings where he seeks to recreate memory.
His “Attic” series shows paintings of his studio space in the early 70’s which he called his ‘research laboratories’. In the late 70’s and early 80’s he moved from this intense focus back to the landscape. Neo-classical architecture appears. Great monumental columns. So real you could touch them and be in the room. This is testament to how good his use of mixed materials is.
Themes of poetry and painting are intertwined. Words are equally of importance to Kiefer. His later works explore themes of god and man, earth and celestial, divine and human. There’s alchemy in his paintings. A god-like quality of controlling the earth through ash, clay and earth and elements of creation and destruction with the wild visual nature and composition of his paintings. Its like entering a scene of the gods.
Inspired by archaeology and his travels through the Silk roads of China and ancient pyramids of Giza. Kiefer proposes that bricks hold memories of people, of events and time. ‘The transience of man’. Installations and vitrine paintings of forests. Encased works of art. Outside the RA are suspended submarines, rusting and weighted down by historical reference. Huge snowy barren landscapes with poetry inscribed in the works with branches on the top. Burnt books held by lead. A colossal lead book held in the centre. In Kiefer’s eyes, lead being the only material heavy enough to hold the weight of human history.
He goes on to incorporate lead as the canvas itself rather than just a medium to be applied. Kiefer has created his ‘own universe’.. sheets of lead with diamonds set into it. Continuing his connection between heaven and earth.
One of my final favourites is the second to last room with his very latest works… towering wheat fields below night skies of midnight blue. Paying homage to Van Gogh with themes of resurrection and death. Colossal paintings of immense size, endless composition and infinite mixed media materials.
Monumental wonders to behold.