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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Wim Botha

Born 1974 in Pretoria. Lives in Cape Town.

Awards & Residencies

Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art 2005

Tollman Award, joint winner (with Churchill Madikida)

Ampersand Foundation Fellowship for two-month residency, New York City and Washington DC

Kanna Prize for Visual Art, Best Artwork or Exhibition, Klein Karoo National Arts festival, Oudtshoorn

First Prize, Kempton Park / Tembisa Art Competition

Volkskas Atelier Merit Award
 Emil Schweickerdt Award for Most Promising Art Student, University of Pretoria

Judges' prize, Sasol New Signatures Competition


 Wim Botha is included on The Rainbow Nation, an exhibition of three generations of sculpture from South Africa, at Museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague (8 June - 30 September 2012).


 Wim Botha was born in 1974, graduated from the University of Pretoria in 1996, and currently lives in Cape Town. He has received a number of prestigious awards, winning the prize for best artwork at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in 2001; being named festival artist at the KKNK in 2003; sharing the first annual Tollman award with Churchill Madikida in 2003; and winning the Standard Bank Young Artist award in 2005. His work has featured on major international group exhibitions of the work of African and South African artists, including Africa Remix (2004-2007) and Personal Affects: Power and poetics in contemporary South African art (2004-2006). Other group shows include the Göteborg Biennial in Sweden (2011); the 11th Triennale für Kleinplastik in Fellbach, Germany (2010); Cape '07 in Cape Town (2007); Olvida Quien Soy - Erase me from who I am at the Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (2006); and the 7th edition of Dak'Art, the Dakar Biennale (2006).

Kathryn Smith once commented that Wim Botha's work is concerned with "familiar icons and objects that speak about belief, faith, observation, transgression and forgiveness." When asked about this assessment, Wim Botha agreed, tentatively. "There are numerous, varied and sometimes conflicting aspects to my work, usually intended but definitely also spontaneously emerging." One such emerging tendency is the subtle humour and wry sense for the ironic that often (but not always) masks the essential gravity of his work. 

 Speaking about his working method, the artist has commented: "It is a very deliberate and conscious, even though it is instinctive. My working method is not mystical in any way. I enjoy the scientific aspect, and I am acutely aware of the associations and potentialities this suggests." 

 "In my work there is seldom a distinction to be drawn between the prominence of the concept and that of the medium. I work with materials central to mass consumerist applications, that are subsequently transformed in essence and meaning to a point at which material and concept becomes integrally interdependent. The works take the form of sculptural installations. I appropriate well-known, sometimes trite and over-saturated subject matter which, coupled with traditional shaping and technological elements, become the nucleus of a series of references around the inherent implication of the subject. 

 "The consistent conceptual element in my work is an attempt to simplify comprehensive principles and universal factors to their component base elements by means of a process of juxtaposed references. The works are distillations. The encompassing focal points of this process fall on universal human base instincts as manifested in all spheres of human activity. The elements create a discourse of reflexive and interpolating references around the central theme while avoiding direct or didactic commentary, leaving the subject without a final conclusion. 

 "In my paper works, I carve subjects from stacked or compressed documents containing selected texts with content and meaning significant to the work. By carving a form from these texts, the information it conveys becomes a part of the physical substance of the work and is directly related to the form."

Wim Botha grew up in a drowsy suburban neighbourhood on the eastern reaches of Pretoria. This fact might not necessarily be apparent the first time you view his work, but it is relevant. His work is rooted in the officious pretensions of the nation's administrative capital, and draws extensively from popular iconography closely associated with the city. Seemingly boring stuff like trophy mounts and government texts, bibles and religious icons have all at some time or another been the form and/or content of his visually arresting output. 

 Using the familiar, the everyday, the iconic, Wim Botha has succeeded in creating works characterised by their delicate blending of inter-acting themes. Take for instance his Wild Life series of sculptural installations. A relatively early piece from his career, Wim Botha used official government gazettes as source material for a carved bust of a Blue Wildebeest. As in much of the work that followed, the carved text of this piece became the physical substance of the work, the collective text informing both the representation of the work, as well as providing the work with its social context. 

 "My works are a process of distillations," the artist explains. "They attempt to reduce all-encompassing ideas and universal factors down to their core idea." Exploring along the way "intercepting variables" and "patterns", his work also offers viewers a curious glance at "the things people do, need, construct to make sense of things," be they grandiose and religious, or decorative and facile in a not so innocent fashion.


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