The Jette Rudolph Gallery is pleased to present ‘Predicates’ the third solo show by South African artist Wim Botha in Berlin (*1974, lives and works in Cape Town).
Wim Botha’s sculptural and installation works are characterized by a multifaceted reference system in which historical motifs and genres, sociological references and freely applied technical skills all converge. In the current exhibition, the obvious emphasis on process proves to be a ubiquitous factor, which adds dynamics to the interplay between form, material and motif.
Wim Botha creates busts from materials such as books and wood. The new series of works that he is presenting features male and female portraits: white paint and black ink are dribbled across sections of the artwork in a relatively spontaneous manner. At the same time, the artist’s signature motif, the single portrait head, has been expanded to include a companion skull on a smaller scale. These intimate connexions between illusionistic individual portraits which - contrary to any transience - allow the countenances to outlast, and anonymous skeleton heads  mark an anthropocentric turn in portrait history, which Botha, in turn, now once again realigns by putting both on equal footing. “In the end, both – portrait and skull – are masks for that which they show us, because even if we transform them into images, life and death can still only be presented as masks.” Through his work, however, Botha connects these apparently polar parts to an entity. And in the end it is rather a sheer modification of Gestalt determining the essence of being as dynamic and permanently in a state of flux.
For his central sculpture, ‘Gravity Machine’, Botha draws on his own specific repertoire of forms and materials, thereby awakening in the viewer associations reminiscent of an abstract, scientific construct. Installed as a floating artwork in the room, a bundle of intertwined neon light tubes is wrapped around black pieces of abstract wood resembling a chain with open endings which seems to be indecisively extendable; this makes the light installation look like an finite extract of an infinite formation. The monumental sculpture thus plastically (three-dimensionally) stages a moment of disorientation, while seeking a balance and the assumed elemental between plane and space, above and below, material (wood) and immateriality (light). It is this oscillation between simultaneity and referential abundance that, occasionally and against the (material) background of memory and preservation, allows moments of openness and uncertainty to unfold in Botha’s works. Permeated by a process-like quality and by fleeting thoughts, the works put themselves in the service of a presentation of the present – one that is aware of its ungraspable essence.
1 See Hans Belting: “Faces. Eine Geschichte des Gesichts,” Munich 2013, “At the time of death the face slipped off like a mask that had done its duty.” p. 137. Compared to the tradition of the cult of the dead and the (art) history of the individual portrait, the act of displaying an inordinately large number of skulls in ossuaries undermined the notion that an individual identity could be assigned to the dead.
2 A comparable realignment and merging of different temporalities and their representations is conveyed by media portraits (of humans) since these show pictures of living people without certifying their actual aliveness.
3 Belting, 2013, p. 147.