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Anselm Kiefer's Process: Putrefaction, Dissolution, Coagulation


In my research to combine digital and physical media I recently read a book on the German 'painter' Anselm Kiefer. He is a painter in a very pure sense; not just using paint but objects, rocks, plants, weather and acid chemicals to create his work. He repeatedly destroys his pieces and the individual items that compose them, he locks his canvases away in shipping containers after leaving them out in the rain waiting for the process of time to transform it into something 'meaningful'.


This unique approach to painting he likens to that of alchemy. The steps of Putrefaction, Dissolution and Coagulation have analogues in his process and links to his lifelong fascination with materials, alchemy and transmutation.

In his studio, this artistic crucible, the fixed becomes fluid and the regular structure and divisions of materials are dissolved. When he selects an object from his vast collection of detritus his relationship to it changes. He no longer sees the object as having fixed meaning or function - rather it becomes a collection of atoms that offers him the freedom to play and discover.


It is liberating to think such creative processes and perspectives exist. That someone can see an object and so ruthlessly destroy it's meaning. I don't think this is an easy thing to do and is a challenging lifelong process. We all subconsciously have preconceived ideas; about objects, other people, the way to do something, even if we have never done it before. In this light I think that to unlearn is perhaps one of the greatest skills to posses.


Kiefer not only possesses this but embodies this in his cyclical approach and materially unique paintings - it is his omnipresent motif.


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