Friday, 25 September 2015


MARION GOODMAN GALLERY, Lower John Street, London W1F 9DY

This still image  cannot begin to convey the excitement, the provocation, the depth and the pleasure of More Sweetly Play the Dance. It is from Kentridge’s first substantial solo presentation in London for 15 years and includes monumental ink-on-paper paintings, sculptures and drawings as well as two immersive multiscreen film installations.  

More Sweetly Play the Dance is an eight-screen processionary danse macabre

It may give a taste of the experience on sitting on scattered chairs in the upper gallery immersed by a 40 metre, life-sized,  constantly moving screen. An  entire brass band leads the procession,  with its haunting, wailing but vital, defiant anthem.

Who are these people? Most of them are filmed marching past holding up silhouettes transcribed from enlarged Kentridge drawings: a group of priests sway past bearing a forest of lilies; patients cling to drips with sketched saline solutions barely keeping them alive; robed shadow-figures hold giant classical busts, propagandist portraits, bird cages and miners’ heads (many of which are shown in the adjacent upstairs gallery). A trio of skeletons dance on a platform dragged across the artist’s barren, charcoal-drawn landscape. Kentridge’s long-time collaborator Dada Masilo brings up the rear, dancing en pointe with a rifle to the last strains of their canticle, as if singlehandedly “hold[ing] the hope and disillusion together”. William Kentridge, Peripheral Thinking, 2014-15

Some cultures have, or have had, the notion of dancing as a means of staving off death. This art work, however, feels more like  a cortege of people deprived of a fully realised life – is this yet another procession of refugees fleeing a skirmish or warlord or destitution? But the energy, beauty and depth of Kentridge's work mean that the images flicker with hope and determination.

 ‘My concern has been both with the existential solitude of the walker, and with social solitude – lines of people walking in single file from one country to another, from one life to an unknown future’. William Kentridge, A Dream of Love Reciprocated, 2014

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