Through Celan's linguistic innovations and Kiefer's intense exploration of past and present, artistic creation becomes both an expression of horror and an act of commemoration.
The art of Anselm Kiefer is rich with references to writers, philosophers, and poets, and his relationship with Paul Celan has been the most complex and intense of these dialogues with the past. Celan's poetry, inextricably linked with the memory of the Holocaust, has haunted Kiefer's work for more than twenty-five years and has influenced him on every level, from the naming of works and exhibitions to the incorporation of symbolic materials from Celan's imagery—sand, straw, hair, and ashes—into his paintings.
Like other German artists of his generation, Kiefer began by questioning his own artistic heritage, focusing on the iconographic and mythological elements of German culture that had been taken over by Nazi propaganda, and subsequently repressed and buried deep in the collective unconscious. It was his encounter with Celan's work in the early 1980s that first enabled him to escape from the vicious circle of fascination and disgust at the cultural ties that bound him to the Third Reich, leading him to confront the subject of the Holocaust and Jewish memory as a whole and to embrace this body of traditions within his art.
Magnificently illustrated throughout with reproductions of Kiefer's best-known works, this book explores the intricate web of associations between the poet and the painter, a network that is extended to embrace other artistic and literary figures such as Ingeborg Bachmann and Joseph Beuys. 157 illustrations, 140 in colour.