STEVENSON is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Wim Botha. The show features two large-scale sculptural installations as well as a group of works on paper.
In the first installation, Botha fragments traditional baroque sculptural planes to convey a complexity of forms, creating three-dimensional sketches of light and lightness in space. A cacophony of wings, carved from polystyrene, and a serpentine arrangement of fluorescent tubes present a chaotic struggle. In what could be a contemporary retelling of the archetypal life-and-death struggle of the eagle and the serpent, the dualistic conflict of heaven and earth is played out. Metaphorically, the serpent is bound to the earth and the eagle is released from that bondage. When the two come together in heated conflict, there is a metamorphosis, and a magnificent, chaos-infused dragon, a hybrid serpent with wings, is born, a symbol of division, disintegration, strength and transformation.
The artist first explored dramatic monumental sculpture through the materiality of polystyrene in his last solo exhibition in Cape Town in 2010, and continued this exploration in his installations in Berlin and the Göteborg Biennial in 2011. Botha is drawn to this unusual sculptural material 'because of its very specific character; it is lightweight, fragile and pristinely pure. In its refractive whiteness it resembles freshly carved marble or snow.' Using a hot-wire cutter, forms are created by cutting deep inside a block, and become visible only after cuts are completed and the redundant material falls away. The inherent limitations of using a straight-line implement of this nature ensure a level of separation between the intentional gesture of the artist and the resultant form.
The brightness and lightness of the materials bring an almost otherworldly atmosphere to the installation, imbuing it with a dream-like quality. The title, Solipsis, refers to the philosophical view that existence of the self is the only reality that can be verified; the world and all it contains is created by the observer's mind as s/he passes through life. Indeed, the ethereality of the materials, the fluorescent light and the constructivist presentation suggest a fleeting existence that could evaporate or transmutate in a moment.
In the second installation Botha returns to the creation of a 'room within a room', an allegorical space within the abstracted volume of a gallery, a theme which he has continuously explored since his 2003 installation commune: onomatopoeia. The construct of defined space will be conveyed by a single black wooden strip that will snake geometrically through the space, suggesting the outline of walls, doors and furniture. This notional space is inhabited by an assortment of figurative fragments, suggestive of both human and animal forms. These sculptures are carved from rough laminated pine which Botha has formed, in his words:
... with aggressive motions and an avoidance of refined form and labored detail, looking instead for accidental marks and spontaneous expressiveness. Some of these forms are sporadically painted or smeared with white paint, creating a partial skin that contrasts with and conceals the raw and rough surfaces of the wood.
As in the Solipsis installation, this illusory space is situated in the realm of the immaterial. For the artist this is a world:
... the nature of which is indeterminate - situated somewhere between a parallel meta-reality that mimics our own, and an internal mind-space, an entirely imaginary world that is private and obscure.
Our impulse to construct specific meaning for this installation is ultimately undermined by the artist's working process which embraces the possibility of multiple contradictory arguments. After Botha conceived the conceptual environment as defined by the black lines, the figurative forms have gradually evolved in his studio, without an overarching narrative or singular objective, leaving the space metaphorically open for us to see something that is at once intensely personal and indeterminate.
Born in 1974, Botha lives in Cape Town. He has previously held six solo exhibitions at Stevenson - in Cape Town in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011, and in Johannesburg in 2008; he has also held solo shows at Galerie Jette Rudolph in Berlin in 2008 and 2011. He was included on the Göteborg Biennial, Sweden, in 2011, showing a monumental installation created on-site at the exhibition, and on the 11th Triennale für Kleinplastik in Fellbach, Germany, in 2010. He was awarded the commission for a public sculpture at the headquarters of Nedbank in Johannesburg in 2010, producing four monumental, abstracted trees constructed from black lacquered wood. He has received a number of prestigious awards, including the Standard Bank Young Artist in 2005.
The exhibition opens on Thursday 27 September 2012, 6-8pm
The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm.