There is a quality to William Kentridge’s artwork which stays with the viewer long after they have finished observing it. Engravings, etchings, aquatint, drypoint, charcoal and pastel are his primary mediums, which he uses for both two-dimensional work as well as animating film with stop-motion animation. His work is strongly influenced by theater and opera, and many of his themed projects are interpretations of classic theatrical works, such as Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Dimitri Shostakovich’s The Nose. There is also a very strong underlying theme of the human condition, and the class struggles which continue to be a current problem in his native country of South Africa. His art is not what the average person is likely to consider ‘pretty’ but it is hard not to look at his work without feeling a strong emotional reaction to it.
I like the often collage-like quality his art takes on. His engravings combine realistic renderings with child-like sketches. Both his two-dimensional and animated works are strikingly unique. I am used to seeing animation that is done where every frame is an individual drawing (usually done on layers of acetate). Or if not individual drawings, then the elements being filmed have moveable components, such as claymation or Kentridge’s Ubu and the Procession animations where you can see that different elements within the videos were separate and could be moved about like puppets. The animation in Kentridge’s Soho and Felix series though, is quite unlike anything I have seen before. Instead of drawing dozens or even hundreds of drawings, or making each figure separate, Kentridge did a few “key” charcoal drawings and animated them by constantly erasing and re-drawing components of the same works of art. The result was one of metamorphosis more than simply conveying motions, as the drawings appeared to ebb and morph rather than just progress in time. Residue from the erasings remained behind creating flowing shadows around the figures. I felt as if rather than watching a regular film I was witnessing art being created by an invisible artist. The result was both eerie and beautiful, and added a melancholy tone to his films.
A large majority of Kentridge’s work is done in black and white, but often he will incorporate small tints of color into the works for emphasis or to change the mood. The colors are often very recognizable shades of blue or orange pastel. Often the small glimpses of color serve to amplify the bleakness of the surrounding landscapes. I really liked this style.
Here is a charcoal and Pastel drawing from his Magic Flute series:
Also from The Magic Flute here is an engraving he did which was blown up in size and printed in fragments on an expansive layout of encyclopedia pages, which then had to be assembled in the correct order to create the image:
And finally, here is a linloelum engraving he did for Ubu and the Procession: