Listening time | 4 minutes
Hosted by Britt Lawton, edited by Hagen Gersie & research by Jacqueline Flint
Upon reflecting on 27 years of collaboration between William Kentridge and David Krut, David Krut Projects is currently showcasing large-scale and iconic artworks published by David Krut and other studios over the years in an exhibition titled ’27 Years of Collaboration.’ This episode looks at the artworks included in the exhibition from the Universal Archive series of linocuts, particularly Ref. 13, Ref. 15, Ref. 16 and Peonies.
Universal Archive: Ref. 13, 15, 16
The Universal Archive series of linocuts began as a series of small ink drawings made by Kentridge in 2011 on pages of old dictionaries; drawings which he made while writing his Norton lecture series to be delivered at Harvard University the following year.
The drawings were made using both old and new paint brushes, which resulted in solid and very fine lines, with an unconstrained virtuosity of mark-making. To make the prints, the ink drawings were photo-transferred onto linoleum plates and then carved by the DKW printmakers and Kentridge’s studio assistants. As a result of the meticulous translation of a gestural mark, the linocuts push the boundaries of the characteristics traditionally achieved by the medium.
In these three works, a coffee pot is transformed into a female figure, giving a human quality to the inanimate object. Ref. 13 is most recognisable as a coffee pot and small changes are made to the image so that by Ref. 16 the object has more human qualities. This movement from figuration to abstraction and back places this body of work at an interesting intersection between printmaking and animation – speaking to Kentridge’s animation practice.
Universal Archive: Peonies
The Universal Archive series also includes a work titled Peonies – a linocut image of a bouquet of peonies in a vase. Unlike the rest of the Universal Archive series, this work is not printed on found dictionary pages but rather on archival paper and includes hand painting. The traditional still life image of flowers in a vase is referenced throughout Western art history, from the Impressionists to contemporary artists. This image recalls most specifically the 1882 painting by Edouard Manet of flowers in a crystal vase. Flower-centric still life images function in Kentridge’s body of work like breathing space – a relatively benign image that becomes the platform for experimentation with medium, technique, substrate, connotative content, or simply a moment in which to rest. Another work in which this theme can be seen is Test for Manet, printed at DKW in 2016.