William Kentridge – ‘Art Must Defend the Uncertain’ | Artist Interview | TateShots


I describe myself as an artist living in
Johannesburg who makes drawings and sometimes the drawings are filmed and
become animated films sometimes there are performers in front of the animated
film and then they become theater or opera so it becomes a drawing in four dimensions
in space and extending over time the studio here is both the vital physical and
psychic space in a way you can think that a kind of expansion of one’s head
where instead of a synapse or a thought traveling three centimeters from one
part of the brain to another it’s the eight metres walk across the studio from
one drawing to another image and filling the studio of all the stages of a
project as it happens the ink the charcoal the page as the previous
drawings physically there is a vital part this is the studio the garden
studio there’s a larger studio in town where the workshops happen where
sculptures made but this is where animation the drawing the editing and
happens I guess it all starts from charcoal drawings you can change charcoal as quickly as
you can change your mind when can take a drawing and with one brush you just
disappears so there’s a flexibility in it as well
as the kind of granularity that I really I really like you know the brushes when
you get them keep a good point so you can work quite accurately and as they
get more use they become more recalcitrant and don’t keep their shape
so there’s a kind of different different ways of drawing with either the good or
the bad brush like the charcoal is it’s very adjustable it’s adjustable not by
rubbing it up by sticking other sheets over and it’s kind of got a speed that
one can I had two lives as an artist when after
University when I made edgings and tortured math school and had an
exhibition and then I decided I didn’t have the right to be an artist I had
nothing to say try to become an actor failed at that tried to become a
filmmaker failed at that and discovered almost in spite of myself that I was
back in the studio making drawings and that’s when I suppose a year or so after
that I could finally write on a visa application form occupation artist there
has to be an initial impulse which might be an image it might be a phrase and it
has to be enough to get the first drawing and then the hope is that in the
physical activity of making the drawings new ideas emerge and possibilities are
seen which then start to direct it and then after a while you start saying well
what does it start to add up to what are the kind of concerns that are coming out
in the work and that becomes the shape the idea of being an artist is that all
the different mediums are open to you in which to explore the world which is to
say to explore your relationship to the world as modest
I don’t negate my position as an artist it’s both an inside and outside position
it’s both an insider as a child of privilege of being white middle-class
South African who’s had the first 40 years of my life under apartheid in the
last 20 years in the period since first democratic elections so aware of those
contradictions that’s the position from which the art has always been made we’re
sort of a self awareness is deeply built into the process I think there’s an
important point polemical and political role in art in defending the uncertain
in having critique of all forms of certainty whether it’s on authoritarian
politics or certainty of knowledge of making ambiguity and contradiction it’s
central lifeblood showing that these are not just mistakes at the age of
understanding but the way in which our understanding is constructed of making
us aware of constructing meaning rather than receiving information these are
things that are natural to art and they’re all our kind of models of how
understanding the world could be the studio in town is a large machine
that’s where we make the sculptures where we film workshops where we do
rehearsals so it has a different kind of functioning so a lot of things are
filmed there and then brought back here and we look at them on a much smaller
scale in the model it’s not that I’ve chosen to base myself I’ve chosen to
never leave where I am where I have been based and where I come from there were
many times that had seen both possible sometimes and it seemed a good idea to
not be in this madness of the South African political Maelstrom but
fundamentally have understood that will work in the connection to the people
here and to the politics into the world is fundamental to me to the work even if
the work isn’t about that even if it’s painting a landscape or drawing the
landscape or an ink drawing of a portrait it’s very inflected by what it
is to be here by the city that is an animation in itself and that’s always
some very valuable to me and that’s why I’ve stayed here all these years you you

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