8 September - 20 October 2011

Conrad Botes

The Temptation to Exist

STEVENSON is pleased to present new work by Conrad Botes in his third solo show at the gallery.

For this exhibition Botes returns to painting on canvas for the first time in many years, while also showing his distinctive reverse-glass paintings. The new body of work began with a series of self-portraits; as the artist humorously says, it is easiest to be one's own model. In these head-and-shoulders images, Botes overlays the image of his face with his characteristic scrawl of anarchic figures running amok. Rather than tattoos, he describes these figures as representations of the ideology and hatred that inevitably contaminate the human condition.

In the large canvas Origin a colossus dominates the landscape, which is otherwise peopled with minute human figures, indicative of the artist's preoccupation with the state of man's existence in relation to the gods. To his mind, the idea of God cannot be ignored; His omnipresence is fundamental to our existence, even though we may choose whether or not to believe. As always, Botes' paintings disrupt conventional notions of God as set forth in the Bible, and he continues to subvert the biblical references and stories that condition our existence. In his view of the world, he sees this large god-like figure as shitting out the human race, an act entirely unlike the divine creation that is deeply embedded in our narratives of man's genesis. Yet he portrays this vision of extreme violence and degradation as surrounded by radiating and beautifying light, disrupting our perceptions of good and evil. The fixity of our beliefs and ideologies is again challenged in the diptych Communist and Socialist, in which a beatific Jesus is paired with an equally saintly looking Osama bin Laden. In addition to paintings, these themes are further explored in wall paintings and sculptures.

The title of the exhibition, The Temptation to Exist - a reference to the Romanian philosopher EM Cioran's collection of essays of the same name - is seen by Botes to suggest the possibility of a life unbounded by the constraints of Calvinistic values, and paradoxically also to question our very desire to exist in the world as we know it.

Botes, born in 1969, lives in Cape Town. Previous solo exhibitions at Stevenson, Crime and Punishment in Johannesburg and Cain and Abel and Satan's Choir at the Gates of Heaven in Cape Town, took place in 2009 and 2007. His work is currently included on Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now, prints from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art at MoMA, New York, from 3 March to 14 August. Other recent group exhibitions include Peekaboo: Current South Africa at the Tennis Palace Art Museum, Helsinki (2010); the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010); ... for those who live in it: Pop culture, politics and strong voices at MU Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2010); the third Guangzhou Triennial, China (2008); Africa Comics at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2007); and the 2006 Havana Biennale.

Botes' exhibition runs concurrently with a FOREX project show by Keren Cytter and a side gallery show by Igshaan Adams.

The exhibition opens on Thursday 8 September, from 6 to 8pm.