An excellent article about the Anselm Kiefer show (which I referenced in an earlier post) by poet and art critic Sue Hubbard is up on 3 Quarks Daily. It is sized for reading in one sitting, something I highly recommend to anyone interested in Kiefer, painting and/or contemporary art issues.
Here’s a passage about the Kieferian concept of oceans and words worth remembering:
For Kiefer the ocean suggests a primal, amniotic, pre-linguistic space, something without beginning or end, where time and space take on cosmological and existential meanings familiar from quantum physics…Many of the works include hand written texts, often the title of the poem scrawled like a repeated mantra across the surface. Kiefer has said that poems are “like buoys on the high seas. I swim from one to another, and with them I would be lost in the middle of the ocean. Poems are moorings in the infinite void where something emerges from the accumulation of interstellar dust: a bit of matter in an abyss of anti-matter.” His oceans are infinite spaces where numerous meanings intersect.
Hubbard’s final paragraph echoes many of the concerns I have discussed on this blog over the years:
Kiefer has said that: “in all the pictures in my mind, not even the most expert analyst could discover anything like a general idea or the God of living things. And without that, there is nothing.” He has been criticised for being theatrical – and it is a dangerous line that he walks – for there is always the possibility of falling into bombast and bathos. Yet in this increasingly frightening and unfettered world we need artists like Kiefer; artists with a seriousness of intent and vision who dare to look at the dark undercurrents of the human psyche, who are prepared to face what is tragic rather than endlessly celebrating what is glib, slick and ephemeral. In his essay Reframing postmodernisms, Mark C. Taylor argues that abstraction in art, following Greenberg’s dictates on painterly purity, gradually became empty formalism, which through Pop art and other commercialised movements lead to ‘the death of God’, or to put it in a more secular way, the erasure of the Sublime from art. It is this territory that Kiefer investigates. Yet it is as if, in this postmodern, ironic world, we are all too often embarrassed by his earnestness.
Note: Sue Hubbard has published two volumes of poems, Everything Begins with the Skin, and Ghost Station. Her novel, Depth of Field, was published in 2000. She writes about contemporary art for The Independent and The New Statesman.