‘A Universal Archive – Wiliam Kentridge as Printmaker’ by Kayleigh Davies

Entering the Bluecoat post-Biennial feels like walking around a house when the Christmas decorations have come down; there lies a quietening calm. Yet like there is in our January blues, there is a chance to rediscover what we loved before the bold colours and loud messages – a simple, honest gallery that aims to raise a voice for the voiceless in art.

‘A Universal Archive – William Kentridge as Printmaker’ shows printmaking in a new light, allowing the techniques involved to flourish under the exhibition lighting. The use of etching, inks and shade to create a visual effect are pure and stunning to the viewer.  The images are viewed similarly to paintings in terms of application of materials, brush stroke and content – yet the Bluecoat offers us a chance to view each moment of creation through the depths of the etchings and we can almost sense the thought process behind each individual piece.

Gallery Two is surprising in its scale, both in terms of the space itself and the work on display  (although perhaps it is a personal slant as I am not used to seeing print in a gallery setting). The use of a glass stand to host a storytelling print is innovative and works well, allowing the viewer to physically walk the journey alongside the characters in the image. A welcome change also came in the form of shape: differing from the usual, this set of works were based upon a circular cd shape, although texturally rougher and coved as well as larger.

Gallery Three holds the treasure of the exhibition for me in ‘Self Portrait As A Coffee Pot‘, a collage piece that combines ink, text and drawings with colour to create a montage of visual interest. Upstairs, the light breathes through the gallery space, lighting the beautiful works on display with ease. This is a beautiful selection of works that conclude the feast of images.

The Bluecoat is progressive in its pursuit to reinstate beauty in its original gallery context, stripping the exhibition of loudness and allowing the whispers in themselves to do the talking.


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