15 January - 21 February 2009
Stevenson, Cape Town
Botes' exhibition, titled Cain and Abel, is a reflection on the origins of violence, a return to the very first tale of murder as related in the Bible and Qu'ran, as if to grapple with the notion of aggression itself. The story was translated into a gritty black and white comic published in Bitterkomix #15, and is exhibited here in full. A detailed allegory of rivalry, jealousy, corruption and lust, it forms the point of departure for many of the works on this show.
The black and white comic is reworked as a series of 15 reverse-glass painted panels, a medium that Botes has made distinctively his own, translating the graphic immediacy of his drawing into paint. In Crime and Punishment, horned male figures, their bodies inscribed with symbols, are seen to worship a lofty female figure, but the impulse is less one of veneration than covetousness and the desire to possess. A large-scale landscape forms the backdrop for the archetypal figures of two men fighting. A series of generic portraits of men is titled Hostile Territory. There is a pervasive atmosphere of violence, horror, grit, a feeling the artist describes as 'like shrapnel under the skin'.
Writing on Botes' previous solo exhibition, Satan's Choir at the Gates of Heaven (2007), Ivor Powell described Botes' iconography as 'an archaeological and largely decomposed mulch of broken images, holy books and shattered votive statues = he detritus of the imagery of the Christian religion, left over when God died'. The sense of spiritual bankruptcy prevails in an installation of sculpted figures kneeling before an exquisitely crafted stained glass votive box in which a scene of abject horror is illuminated. Botes also exhibits two new lithographs, Cain and Abel and Children's Story, the latter an adaptation of George Büchner's Woyzeck (memorably narrated by Tom Waits on his recent album Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards).