Brilliant Ideas Episode #41: William Kentridge
Lyrical Art, Brutal Reality
The animated films that represent the artist, William Kentridge, are often described as “theatrical”. The resounding, striking sounds and the lively drawings in the films seem even more theatrical than actual plays. Kentridge’s works are also quite different. When viewers first meet his works, they enjoy the dynamic and cheerful atmosphere given by the overwhelming sounds and the busily moving drawings.
However, after spending more time in the artist’s world, they soon realize that the works deliver something beyond the excitement. We invite you to explore William Kentridge, the master of drawings, in the Brilliant Ideas Episode #41, presented by Bloomberg and Hyundai Motor.
Keen contemplation of race
William Kentridge was born in South Africa, which saw Apartheid. It was a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa. Kentridge’s parents were famous civil rights lawyers who helped the victims of such policies as the Apartheid. Strongly influenced by his parents, he has reflected the issue in his works. The artist’s voice on the racial agenda is especially strong in his animated works, which clearly show his critical view on many struggles of South Africa, including racial discrimination and conflicts. Such attitude of his resulted in the attention from the art scene and made him one of the world’s most acclaimed artists.
For about 25 years, Kentridge has explored countless issues on race. We assume that, as the world has developed over time, some of the racial issues must have disappeared; Kentridge recently commented while comparing the past with the present: “[…] In the more practical day to day life, it has not changed too much for the poor and the very poor, so you may apply the earlier works also to today’s situation.” Kentridge believes that there are still many racial problems to solve, and it is why he plans to continue talking about these issues.
Two dimensions overwhelming the viewers
The artist calls all of his works “drawings”. While covering various media including plays, film as well as installation, every artwork he has created starts from a charcoal drawing on paper. It is the same in the case of his animated films, which have made the artist who he is today. He explains that animated films are videos of the drawing process. To be more specific, the artist finishes the drawing work and films it stage by stage to make a video. After movements are adjusted to complete the work, the video is made into a movie, a two-dimensional animation film where the figures move according to time.
As mentioned before, the subject that generally penetrates Kentridge’s works is race. As it is a sensitive issue that should be carefully handled, every approach requires serious consideration. That is why the artist chose the animated film as his method.
Classical music harmonized with drawings, which is a basic feature of art, Kentridge’s animated works are lyrical as a fairytale despite the content on racial discrimination. He uses the animated platform that everyone can easily approach in order to remind us of the subjects people are reluctant to face even though they must be discussed in our society. Kentridge plays a role as an artist, or even beyond, by overwhelming the viewers with his two-dimensional works providing matters to give thought on.■ with ARTINPOST
<Polychrome Heads> 2014
Oil on bronze on wood Head 1: 27.6×16.1×8.7cm, Head 2: 30.9×19.5×17.8cm, Head 3: 26.5×14×20.1cm, Head 4: 29.2×18.3×12cm, Head 5: 27.8×18.7×12.7cm Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
<Listen for the Echo> 2015
Indian ink and red pencil on found pages
375.5×214cm Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
<Small Silhouette 23> 2014-2015
Cardboard, sewing pattern paper and black poster paint 140×85cm Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
<Model Opera> 2015
Indian Ink in found pages 97×178cm Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Installation view of <I am not me, the horse is not mine> 2008
Installation of 8 film fragments, DV cam and DHV transferred to DVD
<Casspirs Full of Love> 1989
Drypoint etching 167×94cm, Edition of 30 Private collection
<Cut-outs for More Sweetly, play the dance>
<Second-Hand Reading> 2013
HD video, color, sound 7min 1sec
Installation view of <William Kentridge-Peripheral Thinking> at MMCA
(National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea)
The words “animation”, “theater” and “opera” are often used when people describe William Kentridge. This is because his works are theatrical. His major work “Animation film” which is made with charcoal drawings show the complementary colors, black and white. At a glance the animation looks quite exciting but if you closer Kentridge’s animation include the stories of South Africa; their history, struggles, and emotions. He continues to study the politics, history and the culture of South Africa and this all become a solid foundation of his works.
Born in 1955, Johannesburg, William Kentridge still works and lives in his hometown. Including the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Whitechapel Gallery, London, Ullens Center, Beijing, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, he has had several solo exhibitions in many places around the world. Also, he established his artistic ability through global biennales; the ‘Venice Biennale’, ‘Gwangju Biennial’, ‘Liverpool Biennial’.