READING: ‘that which is not drawn’ William Kentridge

“THAT WHICH IS NOT DRAWN’ William Kentridge and Rosalind C. Morris

I must admit that most of this book was in a language which I didn’t understand and dealing with concepts and experience which were not familiar to me. Perhaps it would have been easier if I’d see more of Kentridge’s work. However with similar books that I’ve persevered with in the past, there are always nuggets of inspiration which stay with you.

The first and most significant one came at the beginning on page 11…

…That’s the thing about conversation. The activity and the performance, whether it’s the performance of drawing or the performance of speech and conversation, is also the engine driving new thoughts. It’s not just a report of what you know. Often people confuse or are tempted into confusing speaking and knowing, and they imagine that they simply put knowledge into words: ’I’ll say what I know.’ It is one part of talking or writing, but only one part. The same is true for drawing – ‘Here is an image I know.’ Performance is one part of drawing, at the end of which there will be an image. But there is another part – vital, in my opinion – which comes from play. Play creates the conditions that help the other part happen, and one can only hope that in the course of the activity…new ideas arise. With drawing or making an object or playing with an activity, one can allow connections to be made…..”

The idea of allowing ‘play’ to happen in the creative process really connected with me. I see ‘play’ in its widest sense, equating with experimentation, questioning, lack of rigidity, removal of ‘outcome’.


Another snippet which made me think more deeply was on page 151:

The question of grammar (visual grammar of the world) is a question of: What level of an art work is visible? What do we see? The direct subject matter or something that’s behind it, the structure? When you look at Chardin’s still life, are you looking at the objects or at the astonishing way in which they have been assembled and painted? You don’t say, ’Oh, my God, plums. I love plums! So this is a beautiful painting!’ What moves you is the way in which, somehow, his brush has made a bloom on it.”


Recently in my work I’ve been exploring the idea that ‘art is about asking questions, not about giving answers’. This section on page 153 gave some insight into this…

“With images , the ones that hold me the longest are the ones where one’s nagged at by a riddle, where one doesn’t find a clear answer. I’, thinking of images from childhood, of images which were almost there, of images about which you couldn’t be sure. Was that a leaf or was it just a neutral shape? Was that a drain at the edge of the road or a figure in the distance? Was that a piece of a paper or something else? How does that fleck of paint turn into a piece of sunlight on a leaf? That’s one form of the riddle – the transformation of the image from one medium to another.”


I think there is so much that Kentridge has to say – it felt to be a pity it couldn’t be more accessible.




About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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One Response to READING: ‘that which is not drawn’ William Kentridge

  1. janecrathern says:

    Thought provoking extracts – I enjoyed reading them, and your blog!


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