William Kentridge



In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
William Kentridge born 1955
Lithograph and crayon on printed paper
Image: 151 × 200 mm
Purchased 2001


Cambio, Dogana and Pensione comprise a set of three lithographs printed in an edition of forty, of which this is number thirty-six. Like Kentridge’s series of etchings titled Sleeping on Glass 1999 (Tate P78563-8), they were created by the chine collé or India proof method. This involves simultaneously printing on and mounting a thin sheet of paper onto a sturdier backing paper. In this case, Kentridge has used double pages from an old Baedecker Guide to Italy stuck onto a backing of white wove paper, with the result that every print is unique. Below the lithograph image on each print the title words, in capital letters, have been added by hand in blue crayon. Cambio depicts a man’s naked upper body emerging from a pool of water. His hatted head is bowed in profile towards a megaphone on stilts, also in the water, which faces him. Additional blue lines join the man and the megaphone at his head and stomach levels and extend from each to the corner of the printed text of the Baedecker page. Strokes of turquoise watercolour have been painted in the area around the title to denote water. The image is printed over Baedecker pages headed ‘Turin’. Dogana is printed onto pages titled ‘Italian Art’. It depicts a pair of artist’s drawing easels standing in an empty landscape. They are nearly identical, one on each side of the spread double page. Pensione depicts a suited man and his shadow. He appears in full on the left side of the image, printed over a page headed ‘Turin’. A dark shadowy version of his body is printed on the right side of the image over a page headed ‘Saluzzo’.

Kentridge is an accomplished print-maker, having taught etching for two years at the Johannesburg Art Foundation (1978-80) after attending classes as a student there (1976-8). He has made prints in workshops in many countries. Although he is known principally for his series of animated films titled Drawings for Projection (1989-99), created from series of charcoal drawings, Kentridge was making prints for some years before he began working in film. He believes that the charcoal drawings used for his films evolved directly from his print-making activities. His recent prints are often distillations of subjects treated in his films. The image in Cambio is almost identical to one appearing in his film Stereoscope (1998-9) which also features the print’s connecting blue lines. The man portrayed in Pensione is also a familiar figure from Kentridge’s work in film and on paper. Both men represent a generic self-portrait, although more specific resonances occur around them, depending on the context in which they appear. In the context of Baedecker’s Guide to Italy, they represent a South African in a European cultural environment. Karl Baedeker (1801-59) was the founder of a German publishing house known for its famous series of guidebooks. His sons published the first English edition in 1861. The guidebooks were much used by the English middle classes on the cultural pilgrimages to Europe (known as the Grand Tour) during the second half of the nineteenth century. They provided detailed information on such cultural icons as churches and paintings, allowing visitors to dispense with the use of a paid guide. Kentridge’s use of Baedecker reflects his experience as a kind of cultural tourist, growing up at a long distance from the source of the culture by which, under the regime of apartheid (1948-94), white South Africans defined themselves as superior to black Africans. The titles of the prints are the Italian words which travellers in Italy would first experience and need to use. Cambio, Dogana and Pensione mean respectively ‘change’, ‘customs’ and ‘hotel/boarding house’. These words appear at odds with the images depicted in the prints, which refer to the landscape (a recurring motif in Kentridge’s work), his process of drawing, and the wealthy, European-descended business man (wrestling with his guilty conscience), frequently the protagonist in Kentridge’s films. The series was printed at The Artists’ Press, Johannesburg and published by David Krut, Johannesburg and New York.

Further reading:
Neal Benezra, Staci Boris, Dan Cameron, William Kentridge, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York 2001
Dan Cameron, Carolyn Cristov-Barkagiev, J.M. Coetzee, William Kentridge, London 1999
Carolyn Cristov-Barkagiev, William Kentridge, exhibition catalogue, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels 1998

Elizabeth Manchester
January 2002

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