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Biography of William KENTRIDGE

South Africa > Arts : William KENTRIDGE

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Biography :

William Kentridge(b. in 1955) , is a South African artist.He  was born in 1955 in Johannesburg, where he now lives and works. He attracted international attention when his work was seen in Documenta X and at the Johannesburg and Havana Biennials, all in 1997. His prints and drawings--and his drawing-based work in film, theater, and opera productions--present a unique, emblematic view of the state of South Africa today, from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings to traces of apartheid's violence in the landscape around Johannesburg.

William Kentridge is undoubtedly the best known South African artist, currently in demand by major institutions all over the world. Working with what is in essence a very restricted technique - charcoal drawings with limited touches of pastel colour - Kentridge has deployed these drawings into an oeuvre of astounding depth. The drawings have been used as the basis for a series of animated films by the very simple technique of drawing, filming a few frames, erasing, then drawing some more and so on.

Conceptually, too, Kentridge has worked from a fixed point : a reflection of his life and surroundings in Johannesburg. From this centre, Kentridge has worked outwards, turning the videos into the backdrops for astonishing and magical theatrical productions, collaborations with the Handspring Puppet Company, animated with three-quarter life-size wooden puppets carved from his drawings, and based on classics like Woyzeck and Faustus and Ubu as seen through the lens of the artist’s Johannesburg experience, with footnotes drawn from an eclectic series of sources which include colonial engravings, hospital paraphernalia, botanical drawings, maps and anatomical dissections. The same themes have been addressed in the many powerful etchings, lithographs and silkscreens completed by the artist through the years.

Artist’s statement : "I am interested in a political art, that is to say an art of ambiguity, contradiction, uncompleted gestures and uncertain ending - an art (and a politics) in which optimism is kept in check, and nihilism at bay." On his drawings : "The drawings don’t start with ’a beautiful mark’. It has to be a mark of something out there in the world. It doesn’t have to be an accurate drawing, but it has to stand for an observation, not something that is abstract, like an emotion."

Last update : 06/02/2008

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