Fierce creatures: cats with bared fangs and curled lips, disappearing and emerging on large pieces of paper; transient, but ferocious in their brief moment of existence. They roar and snarl at each other and you as you pass.
A white glow lures you around a corner. There you’re met by Botha’s massive Solipsis, a sprawling tangle of pinewood structures, wiring, florescent tubes and carved Styrofoam. The structure traverses the room, rising and dipping, a wild thing caught in motion. The different materials of the piece are at odds with each other, fighting, a battle to the end. The installation is alive, straining to take flight and disappear in a tumultuous flurry of white wings, bright lights and trailing wires. The lights and wings will triumph over the restraining wooden structure.
Solipsis refers to the philosophical view “that existence of the self is the only reality that can be verified; the world and all it contains is created by the observer’s mind as s/he passes through life” (artist’s statement). This defines the viewer’s experience of A Thousand Things. The lemniscates, the symbol of infinity, permeates throughout, becoming a motif for the show. As you walk through it, you’re constantly aware of your own incomprehension. Sound familiar? Sound anything like real life?
The second gallery is a menagerie of wild and imaginary creatures. A garden of statues: rough, half-formed, bastardised Baroque busts; crammed full, all in flux and state of transformation frozen in the act of becoming. A black skirting board zigzags through the gallery, dividing it into ‘inside the line’ and ‘outside the line’. It’s arbitrary, inconsequential, yet solid and severe; final. This analogy of inside-outside is made ironic by the fact that all of it exists within the gallery space, a greater outside, and that within another outside, and so on until infinity.
Chance and change are at the core of all the forms. This reflects Botha’s approach where “aggressive motions and an avoidance of refined form and labored detail, looking instead for accidental marks and spontaneous expressiveness. Some of these forms are sporadically painted or smeared with white paint, creating a partial skin that contrasts with and conceals the raw and rough surfaces of the wood”. The creatures are emerging into life, or disappearing into death; they’re transforming into beast-state or human-state, either or, irrelevant.
The scale of A Thousand Things is vast, literally and theoretically. It’s impressive and inspiring and uncomfortable to view; it’s awe full and awful. It is what it is: a perfect paradox.