White Cube is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings, sculptures and installations by Anselm Kiefer, which radically transforms the Bermondsey galleries and is testament to the artist's long-standing fascination with James Joyce's literary masterpiece, Finnegans Wake (1939).
‘Anselm Kiefer – Finnegans Wake’ is the culmination of an epic trilogy of exhibitions that Kiefer has made for White Cube Bermondsey, which began with ‘Walhalla’ (2016) and was followed by ‘Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot’ (2019).
Wahalla, 2015-2016. Oil, acrylic, emulsion, shellac and lead on canvas, 380x380cm. © Anselm Kiefer
Kiefer was profoundly impacted by Finnegans Wake when he first encountered the novel as a young man. Over the subsequent fifty or so years, Joyce's epic work of fiction has never strayed far from Kiefer’s mind, to the extent that he often sees Finnegans Wake in parallel to his own investigations and struggles. The greatest similarity being the position of both the artist and writer within a historical trajectory that moves both forwards and backwards.
The Elegant Universe, 2019. Emulsion, oil, acrylic, shellac and wood on canvas, 380x380cm. ©Anselm Kiefer
Inscribed throughout the various installations are quotes from the book written in the artist’s distinctive script. Echoing the oscillating quality of time that comes to bear on the novel's structure, Kiefer’s work actively dismantles and resurrects Joycean language. In Kiefer’s world, as in the novel, there is no apparent end or beginning, but rather a constant cycle of death and regeneration – the great existential themes that have long pervaded the artist's work.
About the Artist
Anselm Kiefer’s prolific output has resulted in a body of work comprised of painting, installation, sculpture, printmaking and photography which often incorporates symbolic, primal materials such as lead, clay and ash. One of the most important European artists of his generation, he examines, uncompromisingly, historical themes and, the legacy of recent European events. Drawing on literature, politics, religion and philosophy, Kiefer often revisits particular subject matter or imagery, creating work that resonates with the notion of history as one continuous cycle.
After studying law, Romance languages and literature, Kiefer devoted himself entirely to painting. He attended the School of Fine Arts at Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany, then the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany while maintaining contact with one time tutor Joseph Beuys, but soon began to develop his own deliberately indigenous set of subjects and symbols that he used to explore the fraught territory of Germany’s past and national identity. In his artistic practice, physical materiality and visual complexity enliven subject matter and content with a rich, vibrant tactility. His themes range from Teutonic mythology to alchemy and the nature of belief, explored through a bewildering variety of mediums incorporating all manner of organic material including soil, lead, sand and straw. By adding found materials to the painted surface of his immense tableaux, he invents a compelling third space between painting and sculpture. Recent work has broadened his range yet further and in 2019 - 2020 he showed a series of paintings based around ‘string theory’, which is a mathematical model that attempts to articulate the four known fundamental interactions of the universe and forms of matter. In 2020 Anselm Kiefer was honoured with a permanent installation of his work in the Panthéon in Paris. Commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron, it is the first time since 1924 that such a commission has been effectuated for the Panthéon. Few contemporary artists match Kiefer's epic reach, and his work consistently balances powerful imagery with acute critical analysis.
About the Exhibition
Dates: 7 June – 20 August 2023
Venue: White Cube Bermondsey
Courtesy of White Cube