Anselm Kiefer @ White Cube

If you only see one more exhibition before this year draws to a close, make sure it is Anselm Kiefer’s solo exhibition at White Cube. Walhalla is an immersive experience which unravels to reveal a beguiling universe as you progress through the gallery space.

Kiefer’s show is a journey. His work has completely taken over White Cube. Every passage between each gallery has been transformed by the German born artist. The central part of the exhibition consists of a long grey corridor, filled with decomposing beds. It is ominous, ethereal and slightly spooky. This alley is almost completely in darkness, besides tiny glimmers of light that seep through from the adjacent galleries. The installation has been inspired by Norse mythology and refers to a mythical paradise for those who lost their lives during war. I am not sure what paradise is supposed to look like. However, in my imagination, it is far different to this. Kiefer’s ‘paradise’ is completely grey. It is lifeless. All the colour has been sucked out of it and it is completely covered in lead, in fact viewers are warned to wash their hands immediately should they accidentally brush against any parts of the work.

While the alleyway of beds, which reminds me of a hospital ward, is the focal point of the show. For me, it is the work in the accompanying galleries that make the most impact. In one of these, a huge tower has been covered in tattered clothing. Strewn across this structure are rolls of black and white photographs. There is something that is hypnotic about this piece, but it is hard to understand why.

The final gallery that lies at the end of the corridor is the most impressive. In here we are presented with the artist’s awe-inspiring paintings. Huge canvases are layered thick with paint and adorned with huge buildings that are quite literally falling apart. Also on show here are decaying trees and plants in glass cases.

Critics have commented on the fact that this show mirrors the worrying state of our world at the moment. The work is apocalyptic – it seems full of doom – it is a far cry from paradise or Eden. Right now Aleppo is burning to the ground, our world order is changing and the future of global politics seems unknown. It is uncertain what exactly Kiefer wants us to feel from this artwork. What is certain however, is that it is impossible to feel nothing. The work is deeply moving and especially thought-provoking.

Walhalla is on display at White Cube until 12 February 2017

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and also writes for After Nyne, Ibraaz and Reorient.

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