Renowned for his hand-drawn animated films, South African artist William Kentridge is also an accomplished printmaker with a practice extending across a wide range of techniques including etching and linocut. His exceptional technical expertise is demonstrated in ‘Walking man’ 2000 which stands at a commanding 2.5 metres high and transforms the often modestly scaled medium of linocut into an epic presence of pattern, movement and social critique.
Kentridge grew up in apartheid South Africa with parents who were actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement. The political and social climate of his upbringing proved deeply formative to his artistic practice; over the forty years of his career, Kentridge has displayed a sustained engagement with themes of loss and transformation, personal and cultural memory, and oppression and conflict. In Walking man, these themes are forcefully explored. Depicting a thickset figure morphing into a tree as he trudges across a vast landscape, the work is evocative of “anti-apartheid marchers and uprooted communities” . This political resonance together with the fantastical imagery demonstrates the way Kentridge is able to draw from the dark history and legacy of apartheid while never explicitly representing the political conditions of South Africa. As the artist himself has remarked: “I am interested in a political art, that is to say an art of ambiguity, contradiction, uncompleted gestures, and uncertain endings.” Kentridge has continued to live in Johannesburg for his entire life – a testament to the significance of his homeland to his artistic practice.
 Impressions from South Africa: 1965 to now, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2011, accessed 12 Mar 2017 https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2011/impressions_from_south_africa/works/walking-man/
248.0 x 102.0 cm; frame - 269.3 x 122 x 6.5cm
Signature & date
Signed l.r. corner, pencil 'W Kentridge'. Not dated.
Gift of Ruth Faerber 2017. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program in memory of Hans Faerber.
Not on display
© William Kentridge
Shown in 1 exhibition
William Kentridge: that which we do not remember, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 08 Sep 2018–24 Mar 2019