Forests of myth, forests of memory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

This essay, based on a studio interview conducted by the author with the world-renowned artist Anselm Kiefer, is one of three essays that constitute the catalogue for a retrospective described in Apollo magazine in 2014, as ‘one of the most important modern art exhibitions of the decade’. Weikop’s essay is the first to consider how symbolic representations of trees and forests, as well as compelling expressions of arboreal material in large-scale canvases, have been a key aspect of the artist’s oeuvre. He explores how representations of trees and groves have become a means for Kiefer to explore the complex structures of German myth and identity, demonstrating how his work can be seen as connected to a German Romantic tradition whilst simultaneously deconstructing it. Weikop's essay analyses artworks that give the impression of encapsulating German collective and cultural memory in which the forest becomes simultaneously a site of racial unity and societal collapse, and the author considers artworks in light of the artist's own statements, and especially the following: ‘I think in vertical terms, and Fascism was one of the levels. But, I see all the layers. In my paintings, I tell stories in order to show what lies behind history. I make a hole and pass through.’ Weikop argues that Kiefer is like a dendrochronologist working back through the age-rings of time on tree sections, exploring the mythic place of the forest in the cultural ecologies of the past. Additionally, he discusses how there is certain ambivalence regarding how Kiefer reads the ideological edges of Romanticism and Expressionism; he seems both sympathetic and critical, but also that Kiefer’s continued experimental use of the woodcut medium has ultimately had a reinvigorating effect on German printmaking.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnselm Kiefer
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoyal Academy
Pages30-47
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781907533792
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2014

Keywords

  • Anselm Kiefer Forest Arboreal

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