First exhibited on the artist’s solo exhibition at Stevenson in 2011, the current lot formed part of a suite of six head-and-shoulder portraits in acrylic depicting the artist with devilish goatee and tattoo-like markings (from a distance these blue figures resemble facial veins). The exhibition also featured eight reverse glass self-portraits on roundels. Both sets of works were titled The Temptation to Exist, after a collection of essays by Romanian philosopher EM Cioran, first published in France in 1956. Cioran’s existential prose includes this aphorism: “Only the suspect artist starts from art; the true artist draws his material elsewhere: from himself.”1
As an artist Botes has consistently and literally looked at himself. His debut exhibition at Stevenson in 2006 included an untitled drawing portraying Botes inking his body with grim motifs and statements in rehearsal for this more fully realised work. A 2019 exhibition at 131 A Gallery in Woodstock included three self-portraits, affirming the importance of self-portraiture in his practice.
1. EM Cioran (2011) The Temptation to Exist, New York: Arcade Publishing. Unpaginated.
Sophie Perryer (ed.) (2011), Conrad Botes: The Temptation to Exist, Cape Town: Stevenson. Illustrated in colour on page 10 and 16 (detail).