It was only when I saw this work by German painter Anselm Kiefer that I understood what a piece of art can do to the viewer.
The painting, which is in my memory about 3 by 5 meters big, evoked deep emotions and memories of my childhood growing up in Germany. The time of guilt and no words the time when a leaden blanket was put over our history.
In the painting, called ‘the World Ash’ we see a field. The painting is held in very dark tones mostly black using heavy material, I think tar, sand etc and there is straw and ash. The horizon line is on the very top, so the viewer looks at the field, and empty field full of ashes. The ashes of guilt, or me, talking of that time when everything was lost, everything that had constituted a value to German history. There is also a burned piece of wood that looks like a sword. It obviously represents the sword of Nathan from Germanic mythology. Not only had the Nazis destroyed almost the entire Jewry of Europe, not only had Europe been largely destroyed, also everything that had constituted German and Germanic history had been appropriated and abused by the Nazis. There was nothing left but the ashes of guilt. The painting evoked very deep emotions in me and had an incredible impact on me. It took be back to the time after the war when I grew up.
I spend a very long time with the piece, I understood that a 2 dimensional painting can do something, it can evoke feelings and emotions, at that moment I really really understood the impact of the Shoah. How can a thing do something? It is me the viewer who brought my memory and my knowledge to the work and something extraordinary happened. I am not religious but I think I understood the meaning of the word sublime, something of a higher order, something that cannot even be put in words something one has to feel.