BLOG: William Kentridge
The prolific South African artist, William Kentridge, presents an array of new works at the Marian Goodman Gallery. For his first London-based, solo show in 15 years Kentridge draws upon historical narratives with universal themes. He interweaves rebellion and opposition with hope and survival to create a disconcerting experience where you aren’t quite sure if your meant to be enjoying yourself.
It is unsurprising that political upheaval is a predominant focus of Kentridge’s oeuvre. He studied Politics and African Studies at university and his lawyer father represented Nelson Mandela. Through art, Kentridge visits notable moments in political history and manages to give them recognition in contemporary contexts. He reminds us that social, ethical or constitutional upheavals are a global responsibility. They don’t solely concern the nation in which they unravel.
In the lower gallery vast, inky, monochrome works on paper recall flowers, birds and fresh vegetation. They initially enliven the spirit but on deeper scrutiny reveal challenging themes. The colossal canvasses are drenched in rich iconography that juxtaposes the Cultural Revolution and Paris Commune. Sparrows refer to Mao’s extermination of ‘pests’ as a rigorous motion towards modernisation and industrialisation. Pages taken directly from contemporary Chinese literature are grafitied with propaganda slogans; simultaneous signals of solidary and protest. A sole red flag appears as a potent sign of socialism.