William Kentridge (3 stars)

This article is from 2007.

William Kentridge

An intriguing insight into the work of a South African master

One of South Africa’s most highly-regarded artists, it seems somehow appropriate that this first Scottish collection of William Kentridge’s print works should fall in the middle of the Edinburgh Festival.

Although this show concentrates solely on his static prints and etchings, then, the work is rich with clues to this narration. The most striking example of this is perhaps the ‘Ubu Tells the Truth’ series from 1996 (which coincided with Kentridge’s Ubu and the Truth Commission stage play of the following year), in which photographs of the artist performing the part of Alfred Jarry’s pre-surrealist character Ubu Roi are etched in detail onto paper, and the cartoonish figure of Ubu is overlaid in simple line etchings. The effect is rudimentary but fantastical, like a Melies film.

Elsewhere, Kentridge’s monochrome sketches for a production of The Magic Flute and his ‘Man With Megaphone’ diptych display a similar bent towards playfulness and surreality, although the stark and shadowed tones of his prints blur the line between obscured fantasy and harsh reality. The standout ‘Zeno Writing’ series superimposes recreated snippets of imagined mise en scènes from Italo Svevo’s novel Confessions of Zeno over frozen wartime newsreel footage, while the nude self-portrait ‘Sleepers 1’ – created at a time when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were trying to right the wrongs of apartheid – emphasises masculine vulnerability. What amounts to an intriguing look at a part of the artist’s body of work, though, just leaves you wanting to see the full retrospective.

Edinburgh Printmakers, 557 2479, until 8 Sep, Tue–Sat 10am–6pm, free.

William Kentridge Prints

  • 3 stars

From monochrome costume sketches to nude self portraits, this is an intriguing look at a small part of the well-known South African artist's body of work that leaves you crying out for a full retrospective.

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