Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
Symbolism of the materials, as a part of alchemy, was an important element of the Middle Ages’, and later on, of the Renaissance philosophical ideas. Its legacy, without doubt, had an influence not only on the art of these epochs, but also on the Romanticism of the 19th century, and subsequently on the concepts of such modern German artists as Anselm Kiefer and Joseph Beuys. As a matter of fact, the artists themselves say that the Middle Ages and the Renaissance motives play a very significant part in their works — they are often inspired by DÜrer’s prints or Robert Fludd’s studies, or medieval incunables. Their paintings and installations are filled with lots of references to alchemists’ insights (for example, “Auschwitz Demonstration” 1968, by J. Beuys), numerology, astrology, or Renaissance religious/mystical texts — for instance, A. Kiefer’s installation “Breaking of the Vessels” (1990) was based on the subject-matter of the Lurianic Kabbalah. Also they use the problem of the Romantic interpretation of alchemy when working with such narratives as “Faust” by Goethe (Kiefer’s 1980s series of paintings “Your Golden Hair, Margarethe” — “Your Ashen Hair, Sulamith”).
To sum up, the main subject of the presentation will be the question if there is a connection between the Renaissance alchemists’ philosophy and the artistic views of these particular artists in works produced between the 1960s and 1990s.
Many western scholars, such as B. Buchloh, M. Biro or D. Kuspit have already addressed some of these problems, using the works of T. Adorno, M. Heidegger, W. Benjamin.
Research into this matter is a perspective way of studying correlations between artistic and philosophical concepts of the Renaissance and postmodernism.