William Kentridge (South African, born 1955) Drive-in (drawing for 'Felix in Exile')

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Lot 52
William Kentridge
(South African, born 1955)
Drive-in (drawing for 'Felix in Exile')

Sold for £ 106,250 (US$ 137,515) inc. premium
William Kentridge (South African, born 1955)
Drive-in (drawing for 'Felix in Exile')
signed and dated 'KENTRIDGE '94' (lower right)
charcoal, pastel and acrylic
50.5 x 65cm (19 7/8 x 25 9/16in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Acquired from Art First, London, William Kentridge: Trackings: History as Memory, Document and Object, 1994.
    A private collection, UK.


    A powerful image in its own right, this haunting image is a sketch for the artist's animated film, Felix in Exile. Produced in 1993, this was the fifth film of a series titled Drawings for Projection (first begun in 1989).

    Kentridge was born in Johannesburg, the son of two respected attorneys. His parents were committed to representing those who had been marginalized by the apartheid system. The artist's upbringing made him keenly aware of the destructive potential of political and economic exploitation. In Drive-In, the landscape bears the scars of apartheid's violence; a visual manifestation of the country's trauma.

    The charcoal depicts the barren landscape of the East Rand. Rich in resources, the area was heavily mined for more than a century. Kentridge's sketch reveals the detrimental impact of this industry on the environment and its inhabitants. Devoid of vegetation and people, derelict mines, factories and dumps are now the region's defining landmarks.

    To create his animations, the artist begins with a single charcoal and pastel drawing which he then repeatedly erases and reworks, photographing each adjustment and evolution. The sheet is recorded up to 500 times. The frames are then run together to create the illusion of motion. Felix in Exile is a made from a sequence of forty drawings.

    This process of erasure and redrawing is pivotal in communicating one of Kentridge's principle themes: memory. Traces of the earlier compositions remain, just perceptible beneath each fresh drawing. Previous incarnations continue to shape the present scene, just as the past leaves an indelible impression on our consciousness. The working method is a metaphor for the human psyche, but also for South Africa. Felix in Exile was completed at the same time the African National Congress was elected in 1994. The country's first democratic election was celebrated as a watershed, welcoming in an era of equality and universal freedom. Kentridge's drawing reveals that the slate can never truly be wiped clean; memories of colonial oppression and discrimination under apartheid will continue to inform the nation's identity.

    Bibliography
    Cameron, Cristov-Barkagiev, Coetzee, William Kentridge, (London, 1999), pp.66, 122-127.
    Manchester, 'William Kentridge: Felix in Exile', (February, 2000), accessed online: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kentridge-felix-in-exile-t07479
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