Gateshead's BALTIC stages rare major exhibition of post-war painter Anselm Kiefer

By Mark Sheerin | 28 October 2010
An earthy-toned painting of a wood lined interior
Anselm Kiefer, Parsifal III (1973). Oil and blood on paper on canvas© Tate, London 2010
Exhibition: Anselm Kiefer, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, until January 16 2011

In the age of the snark, it is hard to know what to say about a show by Anselm Kiefer. His paintings are dark, grandiose, and not in any way flippant.

But 20th century German history lends itself to a serious treatment, as do many of the 65-year-old artist's other themes: myth, the Bible, literature, meditation.

There is also the seriousness of vast gloomy fields. Kiefer’s earthy palette reflects the agricultural landscapes of Mitteleuropa. Often he uses real soil.

Sand, straw, hair and rope also find their way onto the painter’s canvas, as if to compound the density of his subject matter with a corresponding weight of materials.

Kiefer also sculpts - in lead naturally - and makes installations. The current show includes Palmsonntag, an arrangement of 36 paintings and a real, dead palm tree.

Of no less impact should be his Man under a Pyramid, a five-metre long painting about the relationship between mind and body. Such large works surely exercise both.

BALTIC is an aptly Northern setting for this expressionistic show. But get there if you can because web previews and jpegs might all be just too throwaway.

Open 10am-6pm Monday to Sunday (opens 10.30am Tuesdays). Admission free.

Visit Mark Sheerin’s contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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