As a way to celebrate the completion of the Triumphs & Laments Woodcut Series, William Kentridge approved the editioning of one single block from each of the multi-block images that make up the Refugees diptych – the last print to be completed. For each of these small-scale prints, which celebrate the complexity of woodblock editioning, a block containing text was used, resulting in the correspondingly-titled prints God’s Opinion is Unknown and Leaning on Air.
The text appearing at the top left of the second (right) portion of the diptych – “Leaning on air” – finds its origins in poetry, from a time in which Kentridge was perusing various volumes of international poetry, searching for lines that could be relevant in a libretto for another project. As often happens in Kentridge’s work, the line was stored somewhere in his consciousness, emerging later out of masses of information and associations that come into play when the time is just right and the work calls for something particular. Unlike the other text in this work the initial source, in exactitude, is unclear, but rather than presenting a barrier to understanding, this obscurity opens the phrase up to interpretation, making room for the viewer’s empathy in the context of the image.
God’s Opinion is Unknown is printed onto a single sheet; Leaning on Air uses two overlapping sheets of paper, which are then attached to a sturdy backing sheet using a similar hinging technique to the one employed for the Universal Archive series of linocuts. Both prints have been made using Kitakata, a very fine gampi paper from the Philippines, the deckle edges of which are left intact and printed over. The deckles are visible at the bottom of each print, emphasising the way in which the works float on top the backing sheet, having been hinged only at the top.
Text – Jacqueline Flint, 2020