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Sat, 03 Oct


99 Loop Gallery

Ilené Bothma

Ilené Bothma is a South African artist based in Cape Town. Her figurative art practice investigates particular experiences of motherhood and domesticity in all their beauty, ambivalence and alienation.

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Ilené Bothma
Ilené Bothma

Time & Location

03 Oct 2020, 11:00 – 31 Oct 2020, 14:00

99 Loop Gallery, 99 Loop St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

About the Exhibition

“Come to terms with death, thereafter anything is possible.”- Albert Camus

With her latest body of work, artist Ilené Bothma lifts the veil on the particular anxieties of motherhood, as well as its inextricable love. 'Life, Death and All the Fear In-Between' is a series of extraordinarily detailed portraits of her two young children, herself and her husband – all seemingly peacefully asleep. The translucent skin and the poses of the sleepers, with their hands resting gently on their chests, or their forms obscured under fabric, give us pause, though. Are they only asleep? 

Ilené uses the conceit of these somnolent subjects to explore in oil paint and watercolour one of the central tenets of human life: the deeply existential angst around dying and, more specifically, the death of loved ones.

The exhibition title draws on the concept proposed by anthropologist Ernest Becker in his 1973 book, 'The Denial of Death', that the majority of human actions are undertaken primarily as a means to ignore or evade death. This body of work, however, functions in opposition to this idea; through her uncanny portraits, Ilené delves into, confronts and ultimately comes to terms with her own unbearable fears. 

Art focused on death and our relationship to it has a long history – from the ancient Egyptians’ funerary art, to the sumptuous still lifes of the Golden Age Dutch vanitas painters, from the post-mortem images of Victorian photographers to Damien Hirst’s 'The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living'. Ilené uses the ritualistic and monotonous nature of her own methods to reduce the fear of the unknown to something familiar, something tolerable.

The utter stillness of the paintings, with their soft tones of skin and cloth, with the painstaking repetition of the shapes within the lace, provides the viewer with a meditative escape, a frozen moment to consider fear, love and loss. Through sharing in her process, Ilené leaves us better equipped to deal with our own intractable sorrows.

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