30/05/2023 General News, Live Auctions, Insights
On the 7 June Aspire Art will offer 11 exceptional William Kentridge editioned prints at auction on their 20th Century and Contemporary sale in Johannesburg. Highlighting the artist’s practice in printmaking over nearly 3 decades the collection provides an ideal opportunity to reflect on the importance of printmaking in William Kentridge’s practice and the early prevalence of the technique in his artmaking. View the collection here.
Although it is only one aspect of William Kentridge’s practice – as a polymathic artist working across theatre, sculpture and drawing – he deeply appreciates printmaking’s long tradition of and capacity to drive social change. As handbills, prints circulate from person to person, far and wide and over time. They bring news, information, share viewpoints and ideas and create discussion. Posters exist in the public realm, they announce events and share ideas. They assemble audiences as people walk past them, eventually, they are taken down or papered over.
A prolific printmaker, Kentridge’s editioned works have carried his artistic practice and ideas into hundreds of private homes, public spaces and indeed to important museum collections around the world. His earliest prints were, however, not strictly speaking artworks, but posters. In September 1974, the artist – then a first-year Political Science and African studies student at the University of the Witwatersrand – designed his own election poster, Kentridge for SRC. Displayed on the walls of the university campus for a period, the promotional graphic no doubt aided in his election.
Posters designed and printed by Kentridge for the Junction Theater Company by Kentridge in the 1970s
Throughout his student years in the mid-1970s, and beyond, Kentridge produced posters for trade unions, student protests and theatre companies, most notably for the Junction Avenue Theatre Company, where he also worked on set design, acted in and directed productions. In 1977, after completing his degree, Kentridge enrolled in a two-year printmaking course at Ainslie Studios in Johannesburg (remembered today as the Johannesburg Art Foundation). The year after his printmaking studies concluded the artist held his first solo show. A series of twenty-five transfer monotypes of people in an arena/pit, being watched by spectators formed the basis of, the Exhibition: William Kentridge at the Market Gallery in Newtown Johannesburg in November 1979. Shortly after this, in 1981, a series of forty etchings entitled Domestic Scenes were included in his second solo exhibition, which opened at the South African Association for Arts in Cape Town and then travelled to the Market Gallery.
These early exhibitions were the first of many successful solo shows. Kentridge is today a celebrated artist of international renown. Indeed, his position as a global creative powerhouse was recently made clear, in 2022, with a major retrospective exhibition – spanning four decades of Kentridge’s remarkable career – at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
While Kentridge now describes himself firstly as ‘artist who makes drawings’, it is clear that printmaking played a formative role in his artistic practice and it continues to be an integral part of his work. He has remarked that, “printmaking has been close to the centre of the work I have done. Prints have never been a side journey or in the margins” and elaborates that, “having started etching I could move forward into drawing, specifically into drawing in charcoal, which I began a few years later as an extension of printmaking."
Over the course of his career, Kentridge has made hundreds of prints, including monoprints, etchings, engravings, aquatints, silkscreens, linocuts, and lithographs. The artist has pushed the boundaries of printmaking as an art medium, as he does in all areas, and worked innovatively. He has created technically challenging and impressive large-scale works, combined printing techniques and worked to re-imagine the image at each stage, often altering plates, drawing over and hand-colouring works.
Recent publications on Kentridge's printmaking
Printmaking continues to be an important focus of Kentridge’s exhibitions, with many shows dedicated entirely to print such as; William Kentridge: Universal Archive at the University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie and Making Prints: Selected Editions 1998 – 2021 at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York in 2021 and William Kentridge as Printmaker at The Blue Coat, Liverpool in 2012, to name a few. To add to this a number of important publications are devoted to William Kentridge as a printmaker including William Kentridge Prints (2006) and A Universal Archive: William Kentridge as Printmaker (2012), both published by David Krut Publishing.
Most recently, art historian Warren Siebrits has embarked on the mammoth task of compiling a catalogue raisonné of Kentridge’s prints and posters. In early 2023, Volume 1 was released which records posters and graphic art produced by Kentridge between 1974 and 1990. The volume, published by Steidl, documents over 300 works created in the 16-year period.
20th Century & Contemporary Art
7 June 2023 at 6pm
Viewing: 2 to 7 June 2023
Monday to Friday: 8:30 – 16:30
Saturday 10:00 – 14:00