The Universal Archive linocuts began as a series of small ink drawings by William Kentridge on pages of old dictionaries, made using both old and new paintbrushes. The images are made up of both solid and very fine lines, with an unconstrained virtuosity of mark-making. The ink drawings were initially attached to linoleum plates and painstakingly carved. As the project expanded, the images were photo-transferred to linoleum plates in order to preserve the original drawings. The images have been printed onto pages of early copies of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.
As a result of the meticulous mechanical translation of a gestural mark, the linocuts push the boundaries of the characteristics traditionally achieved by the medium. The identical replication of the artists free brush mark in the medium of linocut makes for unexpected nuance in mark, in contrast with the heavier mark usually associated with this printing method. Furthermore, the paper of the nonarchival old book pages resists the ink, which creates an appealing glossy glow on the surface of the paper.
The parallel and displaced relationships that emerge between the image and the text on the pages relate to Kentridges inherent mistrust of certainty in creative processes. This becomes part of a project of unraveling master texts, here questioning ideas of knowledge production and the construction of meaning.