I discovered William Kentridge early last year, when I picked up a book in the art book sale bin at Powell’s. Since then, he’s influenced me to get back into making animation and inspired me to tell a fellow MFA student to see his work. I have to say the Whitsell Auditorium is one of my favorite venues to see films. I thought to myself it’s a beautiful Sunday evening and only a few people will be there––no way, it was just about a full house.
I like to sit close so I can fill my visual field to the extent that it feels as if I’m watching the film in my head, like it’s a dream. I got a nice seat in the second row and right before the films started, somebody sat down in front of me obstructing the bottom right corner of the screen. His drawings, which filled up the screen, felt like if you touched the screen you would smear his drawing materials. When I thought I should be able to smell his studio, and the art materials on the screen, all I could smell was the perfume from someone behind me. What a draftsman Kentridge is! Here is an artist who knows how to draw perspective, anatomy, and animate in lush black drawings with only the most minimal color. Adding, erasing and making marks from the pages of his drawings as the camera moves along pulling the audience along for the ride over the giant paper. Rarely, there was the addition of blue to emphasize water with its symbolic meaning from our dreams, filling up here, there, everywhere, everything drowning––sex, money, capitalism, and death all intertwined. Water. There is something intriguing about water as a chaotic element. His drawings remind me of other artists in their subject matter and visual graphic look––Kathe Kollwitz, Sue Coe, William Groper, and another current South African artist, Marlene Dumas who coincidently works with similar themes and palette. Although Kentridge’s films were very political and took root from growing up in an apartheid and post-apartheid country, for most of us sitting in the theater so many different metaphorical interpretations can be explored in present day life in the U.S. Kentridge has that rare gift to be able to create beautiful drawings and tell a story (I love how he has created the character of Soho Eckstein in all his films). With the nostalgic look of old black and white films styles of the 1920’s combined with the music––I never wanted the film to end. The overlooked art of drawing beautifully is something you don’t want to miss. The timing is right to show these films now, and if you missed out seeing them Sunday, catch them Thursday, September 13th. We’re lucky we get to see more of Kentridge when his traveling show comes soon to Lewis & Clark College this fall.
Posted by Ben Killen Rosenberg