Atlas Procession II


Etching, aquatint and drypoint, from one copper plate, and letterpress from a mylar sheet, and further hand painting by the artist on Velin d'Arches Blanc 300 gsm paper, Edition: 3/30

Image and paper size: 158 x 108cm (62.2 x 42.5 inches)

Framed size: 175 x 125 x 4cm (68.9 x 49.2 x 1.6 inches)

Printed by Jack Shirreff and Andrew Smith (107 Workshop, Wiltshire, England)

Published by David Krut Fine Art, London

For detailed views, see below

Notes on William Kentridge's Atlas Procession II (2000)

The procession is a subject that has appeared throughout William Kentridge's career, and which comments ironically on the traditional, triumphant friezes in classic architecture.

The figures in his large-scale Atlas Procession II are in a state of metamorphosis, reflecting social and political change. Using as a starting point for his project, the famous Goya frescoes in San Antonio de la Florida in Madrid, the characters in Atlas Procession II are seen to be walking on the outside of the globe.

The feel of this procession of characters, moving round and around in circles, is the exhausting inevitability of human beings, constantly moving through time and geography, fleeing wars and longing for home.

Many of the images, like the megaphone and shower, which appear in Atlas Procession II, are recurring themes within Kentridge's films. Atlas Procession II relates strongly to the film, Shadow Procession, first projected - in 1999 - onto the ceiling of the City Hall in Amsterdam, one hundred feet high.

In doing this project, Kentridge explains, 'I was interested in the way in which projections can give large scale to images - becoming a kind of heir to the fresco tradition in the way that they cover a huge wall with an image. I was thinking about projections as a way of seeing the world, a contemporary and ephemeral vision equivalent to the view of the world, encoded in fresco painting in past centuries' (1).

Kentridge worked on a large copper plate for the figurative images of Atlas Procession, using the traditional intaglio processes of etching, aquatint and drypoint. A letterpress plate then added sections of maps of the Islands of the China Sea, found by the artist in an old atlas, into the large circles. The map areas were then scanned and enlarged, using computer technology to allow the production of heavy-duty mylon polymer plates, that were produced in Johannesburg and later shipped to the 107 Workshop in Wiltshine, England. This was the studio of world -renowned master printer, Jack Shirreff, where Kentridge's Atlas Procession was printed in 2000.

Kentridge then added extensive brush strokes of different grey watercolours to the areas around the circle and into the margins, and the prints were fully worked to the edges of the paper. (2)

Kentridge commented at the time: 'There are sections where the procession is celebratory, and others in which the characters are more like refugees fleeing. They come from photos one has seen of people leaving. People fleeing Rwanda, people in central Europe, people fleeing Mozambique; populations on the move. There is a sense of not being grounded. It's not a procession of the poor, or a procession of the rich. It's a mixture of different people on the move for different reasons'. (3)


1. From William Kentridge Prints, 2006, David Krut Publishing, Johannesburg and Grinnell College, Iowa, page 102.

2. Comment by David Krut, publisher, from website of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, U.S.A. (2004)

3. Statement by William Kentridge, from website of Kucere Gallery, Seattle, U.S.A. (2004)

2013 All rights reserved. Origination by Di Conradie.