This is the fourth time I’ve seen Kiefer’s work exhibited and each time I get a sense that this is what art is all about. Looking at his work is like looking through to something else. Not another world, but another layer of thinking. There is a sense of Kiefer grappling with things, asking questions, finding connections. These are works I could sit and look at for days. Every piece seems so very right. Settled, upright, heavy, complete. And the questioning stirs emotions, but we’re not quite sure how to feel. There is undeniable beauty but there is also a heaviness, a foreboding. The textures and materials are physical, the materials he uses are earthy, they will cut and stain our hands. I imagine hands working these paintings, putting them together. There’s no sense of a paintbrush here.(Impossible to take photograph without reflection – Image not available online)
The first painting to catch my eye was not the largest, but just to its right. Two images, placed together in a frame, both with elements from other works I’ve seen. A photograph of a dress (made from lead?) that also features in his work The Argonauts and the other that reminds me of Bohemia Lies by the Sea. In this room delicate and shining, almost as if lit from within.
The work is part of a series called Les Reines de France (The Queens of France – though strangely the French hasn’t been corrected?) The dress is laid out, as if ready for its next owner. The dress from the myth of Jason and The Argonauts was laced with poison by Medea (and of course lead – that Kiefer uses – can be toxic). I wonder if this dress symbolises all that is handed down from queen to queen. Is it also laced? A toxic inheritance. Below are flowers (poppies?) faded, torn, trampled, looking like the sole survivors in a wet and muddy field.
Kiefer has added paint and pencil to a photograph (of his own work). The paper has the appearance of heavy fabric, it’s hard to tell what is paint, what is print. It seems just as textured as all his works. Layers of matter and layers of meaning. Kiefer seems to use a quite limited palette of colour. Grey, white, sand, a fleshy pink and occasional touches of blue. Colours that evoke churned up soil, mines, industry, plaster, fabric and flesh give a sense of decay and destruction.