‘Kiefer’s art is concerned with a handful of issues, themes, stories that he is constantly revisiting; at the heart of it are ideas about cosmology, the connection between heaven and earth’ (K. Soriano quoted in M. Gayford, ‘Anselm’s Alchemy’, https:/www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/anselms-alchemy, [accessed 24 May 2016]).
Combining acrylic paint, shellac varnish and lead on paper, Anselm Kiefer’s Ausgiessung (Emanation) from 1985 is a mesmerising painting that evokes both heavenly and earthly domains. Above a dark, sombre landscape, a natural phenomenon occurs: the stillness of the countryside is interrupted by a funnel cloud emerging from the sky and spiralling over the earth. With its veiled reference to Jewish esoteric traditions and the teachings of the Kabbala, the title – Emanation – alludes to the ten sefiroth, which are different ways through which God discloses his Will. Kiefer articulates this concept through the cloud, in which the heavenly manifests itself and meets the earthly in a reconciliation of great impact. In Emanation, the cloud is rendered with lead, a material often employed by Kiefer, and over-painted with white shellac varnish. The cloud descends from above but it also functions as a conduit upward: in his engagement of Jewish mysticism, Kiefer specifically focuses on ‘the concept that the spiritual realm is a spiral going up and down’ (A. Kiefer, quoted in interview with M. Auping in Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, 2005, p. 172). This idea is similarly expressed in the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher, Dionysus the Aeropagite, who stated that the divine force descends and ‘restores us again … to a higher spiritual condition’ (Dionysus the Aeropagite, quoted in M. Rosenthal (ed.), Anselm Kiefer, Chicago 1987, p. 138). Blending religious symbolism with references to the traumatic history of Europe in the twentieth century, Emanation represents Kiefer’s attempt to re-institute a supreme order in the world.