STEVENSON is pleased to present Still Life with Flowers by Wim Botha, his ninth exhibition with the gallery.
While the artist’s recent exhibitions have featured crystalline forms, reflective surfaces and fluorescent fixtures engaging light and movement, Still Life with Flowers stands as an introspective counterpoint. New oil paintings on raw cotton with natural pigments and ash, together with sculptures carved in walnut, shift attention to the landscape, creating immersive environments that are at once calming and tumultuous.
Entry into the exhibition is marked by a nocturnal installation of paintings on indigo walls; layered in dark hues, these are scattered with flashes in red and amber, as evocative of wildfires as they are of autumnal leaves. Within this landscape is positioned Botha’s towering skeleton, Study for the Garden of Earthly Delights, first seen at the Norval Foundation. Simultaneously Edenic and apocalyptic, benign and ancient, the figure is ‘a source of life but with death programmed into it from the start’. The figure appears deep in thought, oblivious to its surroundings. The small adjacent room containing sculpted objects – miniature skeletons, various fragments and anatomical parts crafted with wood, wax and marble – becomes a collector's cabinet, a constellation both archaeological and votive.
The notion of a precarious landscape is articulated in the series of paintings in the central gallery. Sixteen canvases are arranged as a frieze to facilitate a space of contemplation. These spare works, at times ethereal, at others visceral, hover between abstract marks and records of movement and distant events, between the genres of landscape and still life. Delicate portraits inhabit this interior universe, their dark walnut in stark contrast to the expanses of bright canvas. Clusters of impasto marks echo wounds or flora, prompting questions on how buoyant and turbulent events are equally held in time and place.
This exhibition follows Heliostat, Botha’s survey exhibition at the Norval Foundation. His acclaimed Mieliepap Pietà, originally commissioned for the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York, is set to go on long-term view at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. Another career overview opens at the North Carolina Museum of Art and the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, NC, in April, interweaving existing works with new installations under the title Still Life with Discontent.