This is an allegorical landscape painting. If you look at this work from a distance, you can see the perspective of the landscape disappearing towards the horizon.
The work is heavily encrusted in lead and zinc. The gray, oxidized metal plates contrast with the more organic, crumbling surface of muddy ochre paint.
The rippled surface of the canvas seems almost alive with material. Kiefer used metal to perform 'alchemy'. He passed an electric current through two metal conductors. The resulting electro-chemical reaction decomposed the zinc and produced these white salt deposits.
The cycle of destruction and creation is an important theme here. The title refers to two ancient rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, whose names are inscribed on the painting. Mesopotamian civilization was almost completely destroyed when the rivers flooded their banks, reducing everything to mud. But they also watered nearby fields stimulating the growth of new plants and crops.
In this work, the many layers of paint are like the layers of sediment in the river beds, which record the passing of time. And Kiefer’s electrical current, like the ancient waters, is both a destructive force and an agent of new life.
The Land of the Two Rivers (Zweistromland), 1995
Emulsion, acrylic, lead, salt through electrolysis and zinc plates-condenser, on canvas
416 x 710 cm
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa
The Land of the Two Rivers by Anselm KieferGuggenheim Bilbao
An exhibition of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao