Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Kentridge, self portrait
Artist William Kentridge, the 58-year-old South African artist, educated me as he answered the first of Belinda Luscombe's  questions for Time Magazine.  

(Kentridge is very much in the art world news these days -- his "Refusal of Time" -- five video channels projected around a room, -- is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City until May, also at New York City's Marian Goodman Gallery; also at the San Francisco Museum of Art,  and at museums in  Kassel, Germany and Rome; his designs for Shostakovich’s opera, “Nose,” are at the Metropolitan Opera, and Kentridge's “Lulu,” is scheduled for the Met, Netherland Opera, and Canadian Opera Company.)

Luscombe said, "You've worked in opera, tapestry, sculpture, puppetry, animation, film and drawing. Is there a through line?"

He replied, "The heart of it is drawing, starting where you don't know quite what you're doing and discovering what the drawing will be, rather than knowing the script in advance and following it."  And he explained that his video piece, "Refusal of Time," was about "The pressure we have to try to escape our destiny, which is another way to think about time. And how to materialize time -- play music backward and forward, slow it down, run a camera backward, undoing all the things we wish we could."

Then, quoting something he wrote (he's also a published author), Kentridge said, "The job of the artist is to fight against entropy -- the tendency of everything to collapse. If you smash a vase and throw the pieces in the air, they won't re-land in the shape of the perfect vase. But the job of the artist is to smash the vase and then fashion something coherent out of those shards."

(Entropy hit me. As I attack a subject, I always go for just an small aspect of it that's different, that will surprise the reader.)

Kentridge went on to say that his parents were famous lawyers -- (his father represented Nelson Mandela,) The way his parents handled South Africa's huge limitations on Blacks -- the fact that police in Johannesburg were not the good guys -- that he and his family didn't live in the benevolent world of children's stories --  taught him as a boy to create his own world.

To me, everything Kentridge said during the interview with Luscombe, was precise, like something he thought about and expressed many times before.  When she asked about his cluttered desk in his studio, he said, "I don't like it cluttered -- in a sense the studio becomes like an expanded head, with different fragments of ideas moving across it as you lie awake at 4 a.m., and there are 50 different anxieties that your brain jumps between."  When Luscombe wondered about his 50 anxieties, he said,  "The crow of anxiety always finds some branch to land on."

Captured by his honest, poetic replies, I searched for his drawings and art works, wondering if they'd be realistic, detailed or abstracted,  or neat, or improvisational, messy?

These film clips (there are many; I picked three,) seem to be Kentridge doing just what he described -- playing with time in different ways.

This one seemed like fun at first, a joke, or a nightmare. It's a seven minute story, introduced by a chubby dancing figure; it becomes a progression of ancient people with tools they used every day -- they gradually turn into present day people in South Africa with their tools.


In the next film clip, Kentridge appears and addresses us. This happens in many of his other art pieces -- he becomes the documentarian and actor, demonstrating that his art is the "entropy, the gathering things together to make sense." He explains that his drawings are done with him looking at the subject through a stereoscope, drawing what he sees on paper in charcoal and pastel. (A stereoscope has separate viewers for each eye as it views a single scene, and creates a single, three-dimensional image.)

It's titled "RETURN"

In this next film, Kentridge's voice as well as his words, appear below each drawing, along with realistic sounds of chopping and kicking that communicate what Kentridge calls "an approprpiation of ordinary sounds that gives deeper meaning and feeling."

It's titled "PAIN & SYMPATHY"

Do I like Kentridge's art? 

Like?  Well, when I look down at my  street on a rainy night and see single people, couples, groups of people  hurrying by under umbrellas, closing and re-opening them, I wonder where they're going, who they are, and yes -- I experience with them what they are feeling.

What William Kentridge gives me is a feeling experience.

I realize that's what I do as a blogger-talk-writer -- I give facts, information, copies of pictures, and share with my narration, views of my real self, real life, my own experiences as a artist -- whatever might help connect you, the reader, with the subject.

So William Kentridge is sharing his vision of the world with us. What do you feel about him now that you've met him?

I like him, I'm glad I've gotten to know this artist.  I want to know more and more about him.

1 comment:

Poet_Carl_Watts said...

One of your more interesting subjects. He is an artists. Art must communicate in order for it to be art.

By the way, energy in this universe, regardless of frequency, can be controlled, altered, and contrary to physics, created and destroyed. Enjoy the art. He's creating energy!