I have come to lead you to the other shore; into eternal darkness; into fire and into ice. (Dante Alighieri)
Eternal pain and miserable sorrow consume the drastically altered White Cube Bermondsey this winter. Anselm Kiefer’s ‘Walhalla’ sees the habitual white-walled gallery descend into a dark and oppressive space that is far removed from the archetypal museum standard. Despite the pseudo frontline façade and its vulgar lead infirmary, Kiefer poignantly depicts the horror of history and its morbid relevance today. Not for want of trying through his frankly, London Dungeoneqsue installations, the world’s history of chaos is most strikingly expressed in Kiefer’s vast wasteland paintings.
The scale of these paintings intensifies the charged colour and texture of the artist’s forceful brushstrokes and bold scraping techniques. And left to their own devices in the original, clinical hang of White Cube, the new landscapes stand impressive, commanding the full immersion of those visiting the exhibition.
Depicting Brutalist-style towers that duplicate between each painting, Kiefer has painted troubling scenes of derelict and ruined planes that are overcast with feelings of infinite despair and abandonment. The mythical pathways imagined by Kiefer pull spectators in, tempting onlookers with a feverish infatuation to find out what those roads lead to: an inferno of sorry souls and plagued spirits trapped in twilight gloom. Drippings of majestic meridian blues and cool silver splatters give Kiefer’s fresh series a fragmented glimpse of paradise, perhaps yet to come if the hardship of a poisoned world is endured and eventually cured; a pertinent and sad theme considering the division of today’s societies and cultures.
Anselm Kiefer has once again presented an impactful show in the centre of London, a display reminiscent of his Royal Academy blockbuster back in September 2014. Though the paintings are powerful and undeniably emotive, the tack and ratty details of Kiefer’s installations depicting the world’s woes, yadda yadda yadda, are plainly lacklustre in design and structure. Delve into the fire and ice of Kiefer’s Inferno until 12 February.