Comparative analysis can be a way to deepen analysis and to give a fuller consideration of a subject or artist.
Things to consider:
- Frame of reference – what is the theme, idea, question, or problem you are hoping to explore?
- The grounds for comparison – why have you chosen these particular examples and do they fit into your meaningful argument?
- Structure – will you work through each example individually as they build on each other? Or will you go point by point to compare aspects of each work?
Comparative Analysis of El Anatsui and William Kentridge
From The Shape of Time lecture, I have chosen to compare the work by El Anatsui and William Kentridge. Both are African artists who have produced work on the theme of time. When I initially watched the lecture, both artists grabbed my attention for techniques that I wanted to try and so I would like to explore their methods here.
El Anatsui is a sculptor from Ghana who now lives and works in Nigeria. He transforms simple, everyday materials into striking large-scale installations (Tate, 2016). William Kentridge is from a very different part of Africa, South Africa and is best known for his prints, drawings and animated films. His films are constructed by filming a drawing, making erasures and changes, and filming it again (Tate, 2010).
The techniques and media are different between the two artists but there are some fundamentals that are very similar. The theme of transformation over time runs through both sets of work. El Anatsui takes materials that he finds locally that have been discarded and there is a painstaking transformation of them into works of art. It is a very labour intensive process that turns the discarded into something beautiful. There is a strong theme of the value of time and how with enough time we can create wonders from very little, but that works of art require patience and effort. There is a similar concept with William Kentridge who does one initial drawing and then transforms it over time to create the final piece. To do so, he painstakingly erases and redraws the figures to take a new shot each time. Again, there is a labour of love and how a piece of art can evolve with time.
Another theme that runs through both artists’ work is the destruction of the natural world across different parts of Africa. With El Antsui the environmental connection comes from the use of the recycled items he finds. He highlights that there are materials dumped that can be used to create again and that in some parts of the world people have no choice but to reuse what they find. His use of bottle caps hints at topics such as global consumerism, waste and its history, including slavery. Kentridge too covers these themes. In Drawings for Projection the scene is set in a devastated Johanessburg landscape here you see factories, mine dumps and slime dams. With his style, you get the impression of the human impact on the landscape and how we have destroyed it. In Felix in Exile (Tate, 2019) there is a character who records the evidence of violence and massacre which is part of South Africa’s recent history. Felix himself is depicted as the humane and loving alter-ego to the ruthless capitalist white South African psyche.