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William Kentridge 'Eight Figures'

By: Emma Bedford 2018

Kentridge "Eight Figures" linocut with hand-painting in Indian ink ed. 29/40 105 x 205 cm 2010

This superb large-scale linocut is distinctive in that it is one of the last linocuts which Kentridge himself carved. Other prints from this edition are in the National Gallery of Australia and the Minneapolis Institute of Art Collection.


Processions are a recurring theme in William Kentridge’s graphic work and films, culminating in Triumph and Laments, the 550m long frieze stencilled along the banks of Rome’s Tiber River in 2016.


In Eight Figures, each character possesses attributes symbolising their personal identity and social role including a miner, a farmer, a nurse or doctor, an architect, and porters, who move from left to right along a narrow wooden ramp. Apparently random phrases in English and Russian scroll along the edge of the stage-like ramp resembling billboard ads, while various text fragments appear elsewhere.


Processions of people trudging through daily life, their identities shaped by political, social, and personal forces become a metaphor for society’s collective journey, a nomadic passage through life, which the artist implies, requires critique and self-evaluation. Though hopeful in its headlong advance, it is also a satirical commentary on the brutality, ignorance, and absurdity of modern life.

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