Seven Keys to Kentridge

Freedberg, David A.

Kentridge’s work crosses borders in every sense. It is local and universal, political as well as moral. It crosses traditional boundaries between media and genres – not only between painting and sculpture, but between two and three dimensions; between collage and continuity of surface; between fragmentation and unity; between the easy workability of cardboard and the permanence of bronze. Kentridge shows the body in movement and the body under pressure both in static and moving images. The ease with which he traverses the boundaries of artistic genres is unparalleled. Similar themes and movements are found repeatedly in his work: often they are combined with music and the spoken word. Yet Kentridge is not merely virtuosic. In his explorations across boundaries he subverts, revises and undoes the conventional definitions of categories and redefines their creative possibilities.

One by one the traditional characteristics and limitations of drawing, painting and sculpture fall away. One genre acquires the characteristics of another, and the intrinsic possibilities of each are expanded. Intersections that might have been awkward and difficult to make, now seem effortless. Even when he allows the signs of effort to show, he does so strategically, encouraging viewers to look more attentively in order to see the grace within. They are made aware of the creative possibilities of eye and imagination in bringing together the disjointed and the piecemeal into states of unity and continuity. Kentridge moves with ease from drawing to film, from painting to sculpture, from puppetry to theatre and opera. Yet, as he fully acknowledges, it is in puppetry that many of the sources of his versatile handling of almost every medium lie.


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Also Published In

Why Should I Hesitate: William Kentridge Sculpture

More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
September 28, 2022