VISUAL ARTS Georg Baselitz - Between Eagles and Pioneers White Cube, Mason's Yard, London ***
Is Georg Baselitz, the German painter who turned his motifs upside down in the late 1960s, an obsessive? Yes. This exhibition consists of 13 large paintings and a few smaller ones for good measure. Of those 13 large paintings, eight are paintings of an eagle. They are on a huge scale, too. They occupy an entire gallery space, three on each wall and one at either end. An entrapment of eagles, then. And we are its prey.
It could be the same eagle that Baselitz is painting - except that this eagle has not been naturalistically observed. Baselitz does not paint his eagles from life. These eagles have symbolic force, of a kind. Could this be the German eagle, for example? I choose my words carefully, because Baselitz has never had any truck with reductive descriptions of his paintings - which would probably include pigeonholing his eagles as symbols of something or other. Reducing them to an easy storyline. That sort of thing.
The whole point of Baselitz, according to the man himself, is that he erupted onto the West German scene in the early 1960s, an escapee from the rigidities of the East, determined to re-invent the art of painting. He had no predecessors. He acknowledged no traditions. His goal was to begin again, to make a self-sufficient world.
Eagles began to play a part very early on - one of his earliest paintings is a fairly naturalistic rendering of a pair of eagles soaring over mountains. He returned to the eagle motif in the 1970s. And then again. The idea of …