Untitled is a large nocturnal cityscape that is part of an important group of works that Kiefer painted between 1995 and 1996 and which were exhibited together for the first time at the Anthony D'Offay Gallery in London in 1996.
Shortly after Germany's re-unification in 1990 Kiefer left his native land to live abroad. After a break from painting in the early 1990s Kiefer's work began to reflect the new inter-cultural context in which he was now living. Increasingly Kiefer's paintings of this period embraced universal themes and through the use and appropriation of what are often complex cultural, philosophical and spiritual systems of thought, championed the gnostic tradition and ancient wisdom of wide range of cultures.
Kiefer's work has often explored and evoked a powerful sense of myth. His paintings of the 1990s however explore the universal myths of existence and meaning rather than those of national identity. This new universailty in Kiefer's work was particularly reflected in the paintings Keifer produced between 1995 and 1996 which were exhibited together under the title I Hold all Indias in my Hand .
This title was taken from a number of Kiefer's paintings that incorporate the title I Hold all Indias in my Hand within them. The phrase itself originates in a poem by the 16th-17th century Spanish poet Francesco de Quevedo where it is used as an exclamation and as a way of explaining how through a work of art a man is able to hold the entire universe in the palm of his hand.
This idea of the work of art as a means by which one can understand or recognise the totality of all things runs through almost all of Kiefer's paintings of these years. Their central theme is the union of the heavens and the earth through the contemplation, meditation or interaction of the artist. In order to express this, many of these paintings show the figure of Kiefer himself, the individual man, artist and observer as the medium through which heaven and earth are united. Although the figure of the artist himself is absent in Untitled, the painting expresses the same sentiments and is clearly a part of the tradition established by this series of paintings.
A bright moonlit cityscape, Untitled depicts a nocturnal view of Genoa, with its seemingly endless fly-over curving in front of a monumental 19th Century office building. The painting, as with many of Kiefer's works of this period is clearly separated into roughly equal proportions of earth and sky. These two elements are usually connected and united in Kiefer's work by a mystic symbol, such as the artist's palette, the artist lying prone in meditation, or - as in a related work from this series of paintings, Jacob's Dream - by a ladder. In Untitled the work is given a unity by a diagram depitcing the Sefirot or Divine Attributes from the Kabbalah.
Kabbalah is the inner mystic aspect of Judaism - a centuries old gnostic tradition of thought that attempts to interpret the nature of the Divine. The ladder-like structure that appears in Untitled interconnecting earth and the heavens, is a diagrammatic device that mimics the structure of the Tree of Life. At the centre of the painting around the briliant light of the moon, in radiating circles are the words "Ain" and "Ain Soph". "Ain" is Hebrew for "No Thing" and in the Kabbalah refers to God the Transcendent. ("God is God. There is no thing to compare with God. God is God") . "Ain Soph" means "Without End" and refers to God Who is everywhere. "Ayin Soph" is the Absolute All in existence. it is everything but it is finite because existence is finite.
"Ain" and "Ain Soph" form the central vortex of this work under which all the laws that govern existence are tabled below. "Binah" (Understanding) opposite "Chockmah" (Wisdom), with "Kether" (Crown) situated in between these two, and , in this painting, centred on the moon. At the very bottom of the table and, here in the painting at the level of the street, is "Malkuth", meaning "kingdom".
By means of this Kabbalah diagram Kiefer unites in this painting a specific time (a full moon night) and location (Genoa), with a sense of the universal oneness of all creation. Painting a clearly earthbound scene with a harsh curving perspective so that it looks like a painted postcard memory of a place Kiefer has interlaced this heavily textured view with a mythic text to create a work that reads to the eye like a medieval road-map of the soul. A guide from a present and recogniseable location to the heart of meaning and universal awareness.