Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Anselm Keifer | German Artist de Plasticien

The work of Anselm Keifer for the first time quite clearly complements the art from West African. Creating impressively huge pieces of artwork in bright white established gallery spaces. In fact, in established galleries who are respectively and ironically rejecting the creativity of the West African. The ideas you will see over the coming years will have a direct link with the work that has been produced by West African artists and artists throughout Africa. What is highly amusing is that the origins of these techniques, ideas and creativity will thankfully never be accepted by the established art world. West African artists, especially from Togo and Benin are healing and developing the world through their celebration of origin and their greater understanding of self.

Let us give the Afrikan Rejects their credit. Their work needs to be mentioned at this time so we can make reference to this bizarre comment. Keifer's work has a direct correlation with the work being produced by impressive artists such as Charly D'Almeida and Anagossi Gratien, "Grek", from the Republic of Benin and of Laka from Togo, all of whom talk about the importance of mysticism to the peoples of West Africa. It is fascinating to see that West African talent is once again cleverly slipping through the established art world's net and falling into the hands of this great German Artist de Plasticien, Anselm Keifer.

In Keifer's work Palmsonntag in 2006 at the White Cube he pays great homage to the young West African artists, especially Anagossi Gratien, Grek whose work is similar to Alberto Burni and Antoni Tapies of the Art Informel Movement of the 1950`s but I believe this is more by accident rather than design. I use the term Art Informel from the French informe, meaning unformed or formless to refer to the antigeometric, antinaturalistic, and nonfigurative formal preoccupations, which is so obvious in Grek`s work, stressing his pursuit for spontaneity, looseness of form, and the irrational.

This young artist is pushing forward inventive new ideas of seeing and using whatever materials are closest at hand. His work is extensively about the plight of the impoverished and his inventive techniques of leaving painted canvas in the sun for weeks on end is extremely effective. The end product is a painting that looks like it`s about to fall to pieces, which is purposefully symbolic in the way in which he chooses to reflect his own condition.

Grek`s work leans towards the gestural and expressive, with repetitive anticompositional formats related to Abstract Expressionism and he is regarded as a major figure within the African Reject Movement of today.

The same can be said of the artist Charly D’Almeida who regards life as being merely a series of rituals, as is art. Nobody makes this clearer than Charly D'Almeida, who unashamably tells his audience that he uses Voodoo in his work and constantly reminds them where he is from. In his paintings he uses the soil found in Abomey or Ouidah and mixes it up to use as paint. A lot of his canvas' have a wonderful orangie-brown quality to them that can only been found in African soil. His canvases are specifically made in Cotonou and carefully woven. Cola-nuts are crushed and used as pigments throughout his work, which is no surprise as cola-nuts have been traditionally used as a dye but more often eaten at rituals and presented as offering to important guests.

In his sculptural work Charly is a city-comber finding interesting objects to redesign; "Recycled art", if you must, but all the items are carefully chosen and taken from the area of great importance from old to new Africa; from places like Abomey, Cotonou, Port Novo and the original Kingdom of Benin. It is not by accident more by design that Charly is once again echoing the importance of the power of his country and of West Africa. By searching and recycling from his African Kingdom he is creating a new vision.

Charly D’Almeida is true to himself and proud of where he is from. When they come to write the history books on contemporary Africa I trust that people like Charly are far from forgotten and I am delighted that an artist as important as Anselm Keifer would make such clear reference to these young talented West African artists. Anselm Keifer and his work deserves to all our support. His work is inventive, exploratory and highly inventive. He has given the world a chance to explore the talent of contemporary Africa like no other contemporary artist. Impatiently I look forward to his next works with great anticipation.

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