Wim Botha’s bust depicting two lovers fused in gesture as well as body was first exhibited on a group exhibition at Stevenson. Curated by Federica Angelucci, the exhibition investigated “the complexity of the spheres of love, desire and self-inquiry”.1 Botha’s monumental study of heterosexual love was selected to develop as much as explore “the relationship that we have with ourselves, what we like and dislike, what we desire or reject, and why”. As is Botha’s manner, his work is not a settled repetition of two lovers in embrace. It is a macabre counterpoint to Auguste Rodin’s marble sculpture, The Kiss (1882), and yet very much part of a romantic tradition that encompasses Hindu temple sculpture and René Magritte’s The Lovers II (1928).
Botha is well known for his appropriation, mimicry and distortion of well-known symbols and icons – what the artist describes as “saturated images”.2 His method as an artist involves study, reflection and interpretation, often using unorthodox (non-classical) materials to express his final form. Botha has defined his role as artist as involving the appropriation of “an image that is so assimilated into the communal psyche, taking that image and presenting something that takes you by surprise, catches you off guard”.3
This lot is typical of a series of works from 2009-11 made from layers of bonded wood from which figures were carved in bust form. Botha has spoken of how he used to “anguish” over the process of making a bust, “because each one needed to be absolutely unique, which is farcical. I now see them as part of an on-going process … The one begets the other; it’s almost as if the same bust is being constantly remade.”4 In the manner of his busts and full-length figures made from carved bibles, Botha does not obscure his source material in this lot. If anything, it proudly reveals its materialism. Botha’s work poses questions about the relationship between form and material, and, further, asks how our understanding of a familiar icon, gesture or pose can be augmented, troubled or simply frustrated by the use of an unorthodox or profane material.
1. Press release, available at www.stevenson.info
2. Sean O’Toole. (2002) ‘Interview with Wim Botha’, Clean/Grime, Cape Town, Bell-Roberts. Page 6.
3. Ibid., page 6.
4. Wim Botha, Rooms: 2001-2014, Cape Town: Stevenson, 2014, Page 3.
Stevenson, Cape Town, What we talk about when we talk about love, 1 December 2011 to 14 January 2012.
Sophie Perryer (ed.) (2012) Wim Botha: Busts, 2003-2012. Cape Town: Stevenson. Illustrated in colour on pages 76 and 77.