William Kentridge, born 1955, hails from South Africa and many of his works are based on the theme of Apartheid in his country and the failure of proper reconciliation after it was abolished. This exhibition explores five primary themes in Kentridge’s art from the 1980s to the present.
William used stop motion video of his charcoal and pastel drawings to create stories in “motion”. He also used etchings and built sculptures using old books as bases of his 3 dimensional work. Later in his career he added theatrical presentations and stage building.
Some other works used mixed media, creating collages. He also erased areas of works to create his video creations, it was easy to see “ghosts” of the previous lines etc on the altered drawings.
My verbal notes cover his ability to render tone and light, and his ability to use perspective. I liked his tonal drawing skill and understanding of the human form and vivid expressions in his faces. Drawings are displayed along the walls to introduce the viewer to the video created from them, which was playing in a small darkened room nearby. Each video was accompanied by sound effects and music for further dramatisation but no dialogue.
The whole exhibitions was in darkened walkways and rooms with spotlights showing up the still works.
I took particular notice of one work which was quite large, called Captive of the City, a loosely drawn work with not a lot of detail which made me stop and ask what the story was behind the work, why is the man on the balcony, what is he looking at?
Another was a male figure holding up a large platform, the figure had form and tone and the weight on the man’s shoulders could nearly be felt. I liked the lighting and the depth in it.
Even though some of the notes next to the works were for children, I found myself reading them to promote myself to ask more of each work.
William Kentridge uses very little colour, there are only little splashes or lines of colour to seemingly accent something or as little highlights in drawings, the rest is all black or grey in mostly charcoal and pastel. His horse sculptures are not realist but seem to capture the spirit of the horse and still have movement and with bits “missing” I could still fit in the gaps.
For me five themes were about two to three themes too many. There were so many drawings to look at as well as sculptures and videos that I could not allow time to look at everything for too long given the time we had on the day.
I also found that amount of darkness a bit overwhelming. After a while I felt I had to leave. I needed to get out into the light and the colour.
I looked at the security people working there and wondered how they stood being in there all day as it would send me nuts. An undertone of the negativity of human nature and lack of light and colour was too much for me to handle for too long. Even as I listen to myself trying to pull out understanding of each work and appreciation for the technical ability behind them, the sound effects in the background are making me want to turn it off.
In my verbal notes I made reference to Pink Floyd’s video “The Wall” just as I found it all too much and began to leave.
I made final effort to describe the image used in the advertising for the exhibition. I liked parts of this image showing the landscape in which the subject is set, which as I commented at the time, only confirms my love of landscape.
My final thoughts were of “so much black”, “so much darkness”, this is not a happy place and I am looking forward to leaving. Even though I admire the drawing skills of this artist, I could not sit and just look at his work for a long time like I could many other artists. I can not make any emotional connection to this exhibition at all.