En route to Melbourne a few weeks ago, I picked up the free airline magazine and was delighted to read that the much anticipated William Kentridge exhibition – Five Themes – had opened at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne’s Federation Square. I’d made a note to see the exhibition in Sydney but I felt that the timing provided the perfect opportunity to take my husband along. He knows about my Kentridge-crush and the immediate chance to share my love for his work was one I couldn’t miss.
William Kentridge is one of the most prolific, talented and confronting artists working in South Africa. He draws, prints, sculpts, creates theatre sets and produces short films which are moving animations of his narrative sketches. All his work is heavily context-dependent, resulting in pieces with strong political messages. His work is insightful, bold and thought-provoking and has been exhibited in prestigious galleries, museums and theatres all over the world. There is much (too much) to say about him in this format, but if you are interested in learning more, you can read about his life and work here. Suffice to say, we spent more than 2 hours in the exhibition. The collection was well curated and provided a real insight into the genius of the man. I couldn’t help but also think of the Picasso exhibition I’d seen a few weeks before at The Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney. Kentridge’s loose and bold forms really remind me of Picasso’s early work. Kentridge and Picasso in one month – how lucky can an art-loving girl get?! To top it off, I also caught, by chance, a brilliant documentary about Kentridge this past weekend. In addition to explaining his work and process, it showed snippets of material for his new production of Gogol’s The Nose for the Met.
As if by design, I was pleasantly surprised to see the work of another talented South African – Gregor Jenkin at the exhibition. Gregor and I were in architecture school together but he left after three years to pursue other interests – notably his passion for furniture design. In the ten or so years since, he has made a name for himself in South African and global design circles. William Kentridge was the first patron ever to buy a Gregor Jenkin table. Soon afterwards, Kentridge invited Jenkin to design a series of furniture pieces – surfaces upon which Kentridge could exhibit some of his smaller drawings and sculptures. Kentridge sent Jenkin paper tear outs which Jenkin translated – through a “precise/imprecise” laser cutting technique – into a variety of strongly profiled table legs. I had the pleasure of interviewing Gregor in Cape Town at the beginning of the year for Australian magazine, Design Quarterly. He talked about his collaboration with Kentridge and although I am familiar with the style of tables that resulted, I hadn’t quite expected to see the originals in the flesh. It’s a really successful pairing of Gregor’s hard-edged profiles & Kentridge’s bold sketches and sculptures. I’ve attached my piece on Gregor which goes into more detail about his philosophy, process and products. My shortened version – which appeared on IndesignLive – provides a short precis of the piece.