anselm kiefer’s ongoing preoccupation with cultural memory, identity and history lends his works their multi-layered subject matter, fuelled by a variety of historical, mythological and literary sources. these include references to greek and germanic mythology, alchemy, and christian symbolism, as well as the writings of celebrated medieval lyricist walther von der vogelweide, romanian-born poet paul celan, french poet and critic charles baudelaire, russian futurist velimir khlebnikov, and austrian post-war poet ingeborg bachmann, among others.

over the past forty years, kiefer’s practice has developed through the accumulation, mingling and reworking of themes, motifs and constellations which recur across diverse media. the language of material plays an essential role in his works, which often have a sedimentary geological texture. highly symbolic connections emerge from lead, concrete, dirt, dried plants, glass, barbed wire and the inclusion of found objects such as books, scythes and model ships. lead is of particular importance to the artist, who has described it as ‘the only material heavy enough to carry the weight of human history’. many of his chosen materials and themes contain alchemical references, such as the transmutation of base metals into gold that becomes a metaphor for spiritual enlightenment.