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William the Conqueror

I count myself extremely lucky to have seen the Kentridge at the Royal Academy in London earlier this month. I was absolutely blown away, but I haven’t got my sh*t together to write about it. One really should be able to make time, especially when flying halfway around the globe to avoid the sky-high post-Covid (direct) ticket prices, but this huge and astonishing exhibition just defies description ….

… unless, that is, one is a genius like my dear friend Dale Lautenbach, from whose Instagram I quote the below:

The William Kentridge exhibition at the Royal Academy in London is a mighty feat. I went twice, overwhelmed by the scale and span of content; the challenge one faces in making meaning and finding precious threads woven throughout the work.

Kentridge’s familiar repeated images recur over time, giving you a hand along the journey.

The lush beauty of his drawing pulls you in and the content slaps you around with grief, shame.

The Black Box cinema with a focus on Namibia and the Herero genocide was new to me, arresting, reminding.

Themes of migration emerge (the huge tapestries) layered in history; the drawing movies richer with each viewing; the rhino an iconic, accusing image drawn here straight onto the RA walls with the artist’s charcoal dust still fresh below, the erased shadow of her tossing head. I rubbed my finger in the black dust on the floor.

Finally there’s Sibyl and the trees and more searching for meaning as clues flutter and fly off in cryptic phrases like “who needs words”. Heart and head filling.

Kentridge is a South African artist, but his canvas is truly global. Just like those cryptic red lines on his drawings, he connects meaning, memory; he unravels history’s layers and slams down accountability at the viewer’s feet.

One of his great tapestries should hang at the international court in The Hague.

PS: Loved loved @kyleshepherdmusic in the Sibyl movie.

 @williamkentridgestudio at the Royal Academy, London, until December 11.

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