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  • Provenance

    Galerie Thaddeaus Ropac, Salzburg
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I believe above all that I wanted to build the palace of my memory, because my memory is my only homeland.” ANSELM KEIFER
    “One always wants to be someone else. I myself would like to be a poet, and use nothing but a pen.” ANSELM KIEFER

    Dein Haus ritt die finstere Welle (Your House Rode the Dark Wave), by the German artist Anselm Kiefer, is part of a large body of work dedicated to the Jewish poet Paul Celan (1920–1970). Celan’s poetry, inextricably linked with the memory of the Holocaust, has influenced Kiefer’s work for more than twenty-five years. The present lot, executed in 2006, is based on a series of photographs taken by Kiefer of Salzburg’s hinterland. Looking more like battlegrounds than harvested fields, the scenes and their perspectives became a leitmotif of this series. Referring to the Salzburg photographs, Kiefer says “And suddenly, these stumps made me think of runes. It was then that I remembered that Paul Celan had written a poem containing the words autumn’s runic weave. The result was an exhibition on Celan” (Kiefer, in an interview by Horst Christoph and Nina Schedlmaer, Profil, 6 August 2005, pp. 109–10).

    The content of the work alludes to an early poem of Celan titled ‘The Only Light’. The poem references three historical periods: Genesis 7–8 with the biblical story of the Flood, the departure of Jews that evaded Nazi concentration camps on overcrowded boats to Palestine, and third, a reference to Celan’s series Gegenlicht (see Andrea Lauterwein, Anselm Kiefer, Paul Celan: Myth Mourning and Memory, London: Thames & Hudson, 2007, p. 219).

    The title of the painting cites the eighth line of the poem and is inscribed in the top left-hand corner of Kiefer’s work. Other lines from the poem are inscribed along the furrows in the field, encouraging us to decipher the furrows as trenches and the stumps as runic inscriptions. These lines read: “As an ark it left the road, thus saving you in disaster”, “The lamps of fear”, “You hear the milk dripping now” and “Milk that you drink from the splinters”. From the content to the use of symbolic materials such as sand, straw, hair, and ashes, we can observe Kiefer’s re-envisaging the poet’s imagery. By adding found materials to the painted surface of his immense tableaux, Kiefer invents a compelling third space between painting and sculpture. The thick paint evokes the texture of snow combined with the powerful presence of the lead boat and the branches placed on a wooden chair.

    ‘The Only Light’ by Paul Celan
    The lamps of fear are bright, even in the storm.
    Cool on the keel of the leafy boats, they approach your brow:
    You wish they would break against you, for are they not glass?
    You hear the milk dripping now, as you drink from the splinters
    the juice that when sleeping you sipped from the mirrors of winter:
    your heart was filled with snowflakes and your eyes were heavy with ice,
    your hair was soaked with sea-foam, and they pleated you with birds…
    Your house rode the dark waves, but it sheltered a line of roses;
    as an ark it left the road, thus saving you in disaster:
    O the white gables of death – their village as at Christmas!
    O sleigh ride through the air – and yet you did return,
    and climbed the tree like a boy, from where you now keep watch:
    that ark is floating near, and yet it’s brim-full of roses,
    the boat are racing up with the flashing lamps of fear:
    perhaps your temples are bursting as their crew leaps onto the shore,
    and then puts up the tents, as your skull arches to heavens –
    your hair is soaked with sea-foam, and your heart is heavy with flakes
    (translated from the German by David H. Wilson and reprinted in
    Anselm Kiefer / Paul Celan, 2007, p. 219)

22

Dein Haus ritt die finstere Welle

2006
oil, emulsion, acrylic, charcoal, lead boat, branches, chair and plaster on canvas
291 x 331 x 81 cm (114 1/2 x 130 3/8 x 32 in)

Estimate
£500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for £577,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 October 2012
London