Landscape and its relation to memory is a salient theme in William Kentridge's work. Using 19th century topographical engravings of Africa as source materials, Kentridge addresses an exoticised, European view of the continent, influenced by Romantic ideas of the Sublime, far removed from African history and its colonial legacy.
IThis utopian Africa of mysticism, spiritual healing, untamed nature, is not unlike the Africa of Eden in the paintings of famous South African landscape artiststhe landscape is arranged into a vision of pure nature, majestic primal forces of rock and sky. A kloof and an escarpment, a tree is celebrated. A particular fact is isolated and all ideas of process or history is abandoned. These paintings, of landscapes in a state of grace, are documents of disremembering' (William Kentridge, quoted in: Kate McCrickard, William Kentridge, Tate Publishing, London, 2012, p. 23).
Reeds is one of a small number of important large scale etchings, including The Sleeper series, which the artist printed with Jack Shirreff at the 107 Workshop. A medium usually reserved for small scale, detailed work, Kentridge's gestural handling is remarkable: the deep scratches and gouges of the etching needle and power tool and the painterly application of spit bite aquatint stretch the vocabulary of the medium to its very limit. Due to the size of the plate and the technical difficulties of inking at this scale, impressions within the edition vary considerably. This example is particularly atmospheric, with deep shadowy passages and bright contrasts.