- Anselm Kiefer
- Ave Maria
- dried roses, earth, lead and canvas on cardboard
- Executed in 2007.
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exh. Cat., London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Anselm Kiefer: The High Priestess, 1989, p. 67
Executed in 2007, Ave Maria presents an intellectually complex composition in which Anselm Kiefer’s characteristic working materials coalesce to produce a visual and symbolic blend of mythology, history, and language. Invoking a prayer to the Virgin Mary, the present work is a visually captivating example of the artist’s interest in religion, mythology and history, captured in his idiosyncratic use of thick layers of materials.
The key thematic foundation of Kiefer’s oeuvre represents an examination of philosophy, mythology and alchemy, all through massive proportions. Abandoning his study of law in favour of art, Kiefer relocated to Dusseldorf in 1970 where he met the highly influential performance artist Joseph Beuys. After this crucial meeting, Kiefer’s work became suffused in the themes of myth and history, though he remained starkly apathetic with any notion of reinvigorating the genre of history painting. As Armin Zweite explains: “Painting, for Anselm Kiefer, is primarily an interpretation of the world, not an evocation of subjective experiences or formal discoveries… Kiefer sees himself not as a history painter but as an artist who seeks to apprehend the totality of the Cosmos through vivid metaphors and world-encompassing allegorical landscapes” (Armin Zweite, Exh, Cat., London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Anselm Kiefer: The High Priestess, 1989, p. 67).
Like Joseph Beuys, Kiefer had a profound interest in the metaphysical characteristics of materials. The implications of his materials are equitably important as their physicality; this particularly rings true in the present lot in which the canvas is covered with a diversity of materials. The distinctive use of multiple mediums in a single work blurs the line between painting and sculpture, while questioning our own ability to negotiate the physical realm in a coherent fashion and to unify a sense of time within space. In keeping with Kiefer’s idiosyncratic colour palette, Ave Maria is composed of scattered dried roses and lead on top of an earthy brown background. Rich layers of paint, plaster, debris, and other earthly materials introduce a sculptural level to Kiefer’s work, which has been aptly explicated by Grace Glueck: “A blending of paint and other materials like sand, rust, dirt and straw is worked up to create a gritty impasto, further toughened by deliberate exposure to the weather. The resulting seascapes give a sense of inexorable nature, perhaps symbolising the struggle of humanity against the relentless forces of time and an indifferent universe” (Grace Glueck, ‘Paintings by Anselm Kiefer, Inspired by the Poet Velimir Chlebnikov’, The New York Times, 16 June 2006, online).