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Ben Luke talks to William Kentridge about his influences—from the worlds of literature, music, film and, of course, art—and the cultural experiences that have shaped his life and work.

William Kentridge’s Cut (2021)

Kentridge was born in 1955 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and began his career making large-scale drawings. But his work has grown to encompass film and video installation, sculpture, tapestry, sound, performance, and puppetry. It teems with imagery and ideas, reflecting on his autobiography, on the inequities of Apartheid South Africa, but also on broader histories from colonialism to communism and beyond.

Video still from William Kentridge’s Notes Towards a Model Opera, (2015)

He discusses being surrounded by Miró and Matisse as a child, his homages to Beckmann and Manet, the enduring power of composers like Shostakovich and early filmmakers like Georges Méliès, and the poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky. Plus, he gives insight into life in his studio, and answers our usual questions, including the ultimate: what is art for?

Video still from William Kentridge’s Waiting for the Sibyl

• William Kentridge, Royal Academy of Arts, London, until 11 December

• William Kentridge: Oh To Believe in Another World, Goodman Gallery, London, 1 October-12 November.

• William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows, the Broad, Los Angeles, 12 November-9 April 2023.

• William Kentridge: That Which We Do Not Remember, M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum Of Art, Kaunas, Lithuania, until 30 November.

• Kentridge’s series of short films, Self Portrait as a Coffee Pot, is shown at the ICA, London, as part of the BFI London Film Festival on 7 October.

Series 12 of A brush with… runs from 14 September-5 October, with episodes released on Wednesdays. You can download and subscribe to the podcast here. This podcast is sponsored byBloomberg Connects.

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