Kentridge Impressions - Barry Cleavin


Installation view William Kentridge The Refusal of Time 2014

Christchurch-based artist Barry Cleavin has made a significant contribution to the New Zealand printmaking landscape, as well as his role as Senior Lecturer of printmaking at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts, 1978 – 1990. Barry was recently in Wellington for the opening of his new exhibition at The Solander Gallery, Portrayals & Betrayals. He stopped by City Gallery to see William Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time and I asked him a few questions about his visit:

Q. What brought you to the Gallery to see The Refusal of Time?
A. I was really pleased that the Kentridge installation coincided with my visit Wellington to accompany my own works. I was aware of William Kentridge and what it was that he stood for via books and a rather more personal element involving a Facebook friend, a younger printmaker/artist who stated in a correspondence to me that he felt blessed to have William Kentridge as a benefactor and mentor. In short – the artist as humanist not egotist.

Q. What were your first impressions of the work?
A. The inclination is to create painted words to describe what it is that William Kentridge has visually described so adequately. The Refusal of Time as with time itself ‘marches on’. It is as inexorable as a Bach Toccata and Fugue. It is an adventure through zones of chaos and order. It is a triumph of the Kentridge visual elements being cemented to Phillip Miller’s atonalities. Given the nature of the presentation one has to accept being placed inside time, as stirring to me now upon reflection as it was when I was sitting within the organised but tumultuous events…the conscious and subconscious parts of myself being forced to interact.

Q. The Refusal of Time includes numerous themes such as theatre, music, dance, science, sculpture and drawing. Considering your practices as an artist, did any of these elements stand out to you in particular?

A. Drawing was the base around which all of the other elements or disciplines rotated. William Kentridge’s prowess as a storytelling draughtsman of a monumental non-apologetic order and user of the print as a vital part of his visual arsenal (beyond its means to render an image a number of times) is something that I can freely applaud. He expands the Saul Steinberg notion of ‘Drawing is a way of reasoning on paper’ into something altogether larger presenting the Homo Fabula tradition ( we are story telling beings ) bound in collaboration with his empathetic co-authors - Millar, Meyburgh and Gallison. This is an integration of means sans the feeling that it is a contrived gallery ‘art project’. I am grateful to City Gallery for being perceptive enough to accept The Refusal of Time into its programme and for so faithfully presenting it.

Olivia Lacey, Publicist

Photo: Mark Tantrum