The Temptation to ExistSolo Exhibition

8 September - 20 October 2011

Stevenson Cape Town

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.