Studio Portrait, 2004
Serigraph (silkscreen printed in colours)
Signed in pencil and numbered 23/120 on woven paper
Image size: 100 x 70cm
Using films, drawings, serigraphs, etchings and lithographs, William Kentridge has forged a place of his own among the internationally well-known artists of today. He has exhibited at countless galleries and museums and his work now forms part of many of the most prestigious museums and private collections around the world.
Kentridge’s work uses different eras and genres. They are picture-stories set in landscape, impressive images wavering between forgetting and remembering, processing the complex tensions in a post-colonial memory. “Studio Portrait” is considered to be an excellent example of this. It is a powerful and haunting picture, which successfully combines modernism with an old world European sensibility. Like other Kentridge works, it links various periods and levels, deconstructing history through form and meaning. It is familiar imagery - the figures are silent, enigmatic, sophisticated, historical. Yet these elegant silhouettes are also very much modern and fragmented, speaking volumes as to the process of metamorphosis, the journey of change. Set in isolation against a dark, misty, contemporary landscape, the strong central figures have been placed in another world, another context far from the comfort or setting initially implied by their overall dress or demeanour. Surrounded by spirals of energy and emerging colour, they have become shadows in an evolving world, symbols of transition hinting at the vortex of ages, a memory unravelling - the process of transformation from past to future. There is also a distinctly romantic and cinematic quality to this work. And, as in the days of silent films, the stark black and white imagery broken with sudden bursts of passion and colour, evoke a depth of longing - a looking over one’s shoulder almost as if for a lost Eden.
Kentridge created Studio Portrait in 2004 in aid of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), a humanitarian aid organization best known for its projects in war-torn regions and for people in crisis. Medecins Sans Frontieres was created in 1971 by a small group of French doctors. They believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affirmation and that the needs of these people supersede respect for national borders. MSF is governed by an international board of directors located in Switzerland. Over the last few years, over 26,000 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have provided medical aid in over 60 countries including Columbia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Gaza, Zimbabwe, Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, etc. This organization depends on private donations and contributions for 80% of its funding.