A Macabre Procession By William Kentridge

William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play The Dance ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 35 months ago
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This stunning procession across eight screens is the best work here. Copyright William Kentridge.

William Kentridge is a South African artist known for his video works that contain social commentary, most often about his homeland. These topics resurface in his first substantial exhibition in London for 15 years.

The first section concerns itself with Chinese politics, including imagery associated with Chairman Mao, and a nearby video mixes both Chinese militarism with South African dance. But these works never seem clear on what they're trying to say and the mix of cultures diluted the message for us.

Maybe think of the first section as a prelude for what's in store upstairs — this is where the exhibition comes to life. Eight screens have been arranged around the gallery: as visitors sit in the centre, a parade proceeds across the screens in a 15 minute video. We highly recommend sitting all the way through, from the beginning.

The procession on screen increases and decreases in volume and tempo as a whole host of characters pass before our eyes. There are skeletons, the walking wounded with intravenous drips, speakers upon podiums, soldiers and dancers. It's a procession that covers life, death, poverty, famine, slavery, war, politics and colonialism, all while accompanied by a tune that we struggled to get out of our heads afterwards.

It's a visually stunning and challenging piece that made us forget that the works downstairs aren't as strong, and we ended up watching it a second time through.

When Marian Goodman, one of the world's largest art dealers, opened a London branch last October we were expecting big things. Since then there have been a string of exhibitions featuring big name artists with mediocre works. In this show we finally have an exhibition that delivers on the reputation of the gallery's brand and we look forward to future exhibitions.

William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play The Dance is on at Marian Goodman Gallery, 5-8 Lower John Street, W1F 9DY until 24 October. Entrance is free and the gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-6pm.

For more exciting exhibitions see our top 10 picks for this autumn and September. There's still time to catch some of our most talked about exhibitions in August. Nearby is the London Transport Museum's Nightlife exhibition.

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The music from the procession is hard to get out of your head. Copyright William Kentridge
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A mixture of South African dance with Chinese references never gels. Copyright William Kentridge
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The downstairs video works aren't as strong as the centrepiece upstairs. Copyright William Kentridge
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Chinese imagery is used to explore political themes. Copyright William Kentridge

Last Updated 18 September 2015