If the thought of elbowing your way through the crowds of Christmas shoppers is too much to bear, take some well deserved me-time and head to one of these newly opened exhibitions, hand-picked by Artfinder as the must-sees of the week.
Anselm Kiefer, Il Mistero delle Cattedrali, at White Cube Bermondsey, London (ends 26 February 2012)
Recognised as one of the most important contemporary German artists, this is Anselm Kiefer‘s largest ever exhibition to take place in London. Kiefer is interested in the history of twentieth century Germany, or more specifically, the process of coming to terms with the events and truths of the past. He translates this into monumental, complex works, often featuring repeated motifs of aviation (aircrafts and wings) that allude to Germany’s military past and imperial ambitions.
Yet Kiefer also has a strong interest in the alchemical potential of art, in its transformative value, a theme that he explores fully in this exhibition. ’The ideology of alchemy is the hastening of time,’ he explains, ‘as in the lead-silver-gold cycle which needed only time in order to transform lead into gold. In the past the alchemist sped up this process with magical means. That was called magic. As an artist I don’t do anything differently. I only accelerate the transformation that is already present in things. That is magic, as I understand it.’ His works on show might be considered more like experiments taking place in a lab.
This exhibition includes 20 works in total – both large-scale canvases, drawings and sculpture – which are all equally intense and physical, with a chaotic edge. ‘You have to find a golden path between controlling and not controlling, between order and chaos. If there is too much order, it is dead; if there is too much chaos, it doesn’t cohere. I’m continually negotiating a path between these two extremes,’ says the artist.
Lygia Pape, Magnetized Space, at Serpentine Gallery, London (ends 19 February 2012)
‘My concern is always invention,’ said Lygia Pape, a leading Brazilian artist. ‘I always want to invent a new language that’s different for me and for others, too… I want to discover new things. Because, to me, art is a way of knowing the world.’
A founding member of the Neo-Concrete movement – formed in Brazil in the 1950s and considered the start of contemporary art in Brazil – Pape and her contemporaries sought to pursue the abstract, optical art of the Concrete movement – where lines and colour were free of symbolic value – but with more sensuality, colour and poetic feeling. Pape wanted to include art in everyday life, and therefore focused on the coming together of aesthetic, ethical and political ideas in her work, in particular the political repression and authoritarianism of Brazil’s military regime and elite, which characterised the late-1960s to mid-1980s.
This exhibition takes a spanning look at Pape’s varied and experimental career, and includes videos of performances, ink drawings, poems, woodcut prints, wooden constructions, reliefs and installation. These works have an abstract, geometric and distinct rhythmic optical quality.
The Mystery of Appearance: Conversations Between Ten British Post-War Painters, at Haunch of Venison, London (ends 18 February 2012)
This exhibition shows the work of ten key post-war British painters, who revived figurative and landscape painting at a time when abstraction and conceptual art were the done thing. Included in the show are Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Patrick Caulfield, William Coldstream, Lucian Freud, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff and Euan Uglow.
The curators hope to give a sense of the complex contextual milieu in which these artists were working, and features many lesser known works from private collections. A central theme explored by the exhibition is chance and intuition – think about Franis Bacon’s suggestion that appearance can stumbled upon by chance through throwing paint at a canvas – and is likewise seen in the work of Andrews, Kossoff and Auerbach, in which shapes merge haphazardly to depict figures.
The exhibition also explores these artists’ relationships with photography; many worked from photographs, or onto photographs, which resulted in a unified flat aesthetic across the board. This material destructiveness is shared by all artists on show; a willingness to destroy perspective, or the photographic form, or clear figuration. Whilst the artists included in the exhibition do not form one coherent movement, the grouping of them together nevertheless attempts to explore their common interest in painting the human form and landscapes.