Finally, I return to the art scene. After three or four months of intense wedding planning, not to mention the actual wedding, it is nice to return to the comfort of art. On view through November at the Austin Museum of Art is a must see show by South African artist William Kentridge. It was a wonderful treat to visit the show this weekend.

kentridge drawing

Weighing and Wanting is a story of a wealthy man who made his riches from the mining industry in South Africa. He is a troubled soul, a memory plagued by guilt, emptyness and sadness. Kentridge tells the story of this fictional character through a collection of life size charcoal drawings and an animated film which traces the sequence of the life of the drawings. The short film is a theatrical narration. It slowly and methodically highlights the drawing/creative process that Kentridge follows. He draws and then erases, retraces forms and finds connections through line that lead him to sequences.

It is difficult to ignore the history and brutality that South Africans have witnessed when viewing the work of a South African artist. Kentridge makes no attempt to persuade the viewer through political stance. There is nothing didactic or absolute about his work, on the contrary, he leaves so much open to interpretation. It is a little bit unsettling, but also intriguing.

I was so intrigued about his view of South Africa that I did some more research and found this article published a few years ago. Enjoy…

The following article is taken from Interview Magazine, May 22, 2001:

William Kentridge: 12 African Greats Speak Freely About Their Continent

“I live in Johannesburg. All the places I’ve lived are within a four or five-kilometer radius of each other. Like most South African Jews, my grandparents and great grandparents came from Lithuania at the turn of the century. I grew up in a liberal family with politically involved parents who were lawyers. I can’t remember a stage where I was not aware of living in an unnatural place. There was so much dinner table conversation about the inequities of the society we were living in–that was a kind of daily bread and butter. This is not unique, but it was less than common in white society. There was always a sense growing up of living in a society that was waiting to become an adult, to change. During the 1970s and ’80s that seemed completely intractable, and it’s that sense of waiting–which existed throughout my childhood–that had been a false expectation. Then when the transformation came in 1989 through 1994, this was a kind of vindication of all those expectations of childhood.

I think one of the exciting things about South Africa after this transformation from apartheid is that it has an open-ended future. Being objective, I don’t know how one’s going to solve the enormous problems facing South Africa. The largest problem is how to deal with the AIDS epidemic. Both in terms of medicine–how do we stop so many people dying and how do we look after people who are ill–but, also, how do we deal with a bruised society left in the wake of the epidemic? If life becomes so dispensable, if people die with such little cause, so easily, what is the status one puts on the value of life, on long-term projects, on a sense of the future, on a sense of beneficent fate? All those things get thrown out of kilter.

One misconception about Africa would be that it’s a uniform, unified category, that you can talk about Africa in a meaningful way. That implies that Africans, whether they are in Egypt or Tunisia or Togo or South Africa, are people that can be talked about as if they were not identical, but certainly similar enough. So that would be the first misconception. The second misconception would be that societies in Africa are essentially pre-modern. It’s about understanding the ongoing clash between different kinds of modernization. If you look at 99 percent of the conflict throughout Africa, it has to do with conflicts over modernization; who owns resources and who has access to them, who is able to transform their lives from rural peasantry to an urban society.”

– William Kentridge