Essays by James Hyman

Anselm Kiefer as print maker: a complete catalogue. Part 2

Anselm Kiefer as print maker: a complete catalogue. Part 2


James Hyman
Print Quarterly


In Anselm Kiefer as Printmaker - I. A Catalogue, 1973-1993, I addressed Kiefer's sophisticated incorporation of the woodcut into his complex multimedia work and demonstrated that although the artist has never made editions of prints, the medium has long been a central aspect of his work. I also argued that to understand the iconography of Kiefer's work it is necessary to address the implications of his incorporation of the woodcut - a medium with strong associations with German artistic practise - into pictures addressing the history and culture of Germany. The present essay takes further this analysis of the woodcut, addressing works made by Kiefer since leaving Germany for Barjac in Southern France in the mid 1990s. In so doing it explores the increased alchemical significance that Kiefer has attached to the properties of the woodcut - emphasising its association with fire - in a body of work in which the woodcut's status has shifted from a form of national branding to an ingredient of the alchemist.

This shift stands at the heart of the differences between the work addressed in part I and part II of this study. Whilst, other authors have used the fall of the Berlin wall and the unification of Germany a decade ago as a point of rupture, dividing Kiefer's work into a before and after period, this essay proposes that a driving force has been a shift in emphasis from collective memory and national history to alchemical concerns centred on the individual.

The roots of Kiefer's printmaking may lie in a medium associated with German culture - the woodcut - but in these latest pictures Kiefer rises above specific events, precisely located in time and space, to present an exploration of stronger, Universal, forces.

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