Wim Botha

Your linoprint is based on Velázquez's 1640 painting Mars, God of War. What processes have you subjected the original image to?

There are three interventions at play: firstly, the image is duplicated; one is mirrored, with the two slightly different versions facing each other, or set in opposition. The second of course is that it is executed as a relief print instead of the original painting. The primary visual translation is that the figures are presented as "permanent remains", skeletons that continue to be subjected to an unspecified destructive force.

You have previously made a lifesize mirrored copy of Michelangelo's Pietà out of maize meal, and are in the process of making a Laocoön group, a Hellenistic sculpture that informed the work of Michelangelo. Velázquez in turn studied Italian art, and his works have inspired others before you.

Every form of contemporary visual art has the entire history of the development of the visual language behind it. Many artists find it irresistible occasionally to dance along that timeline, since the official history is a one-sided construct, and the images often belie that narrative. In addition, humanity has not fundamentally changed and we share many sentiments and thoughts with others from previous ages. I am drawn to interfere with images that have a profound impact on me mentally or emotionally. Mars is such an image.

Does the skeletonisation of your image imply an end point in this continuum of influence and (re)interpretation?

It casts it in a different light, and a decidedly more ambiguous and contradictory one, but the fact that the figure or its skeleton has remained motionless amid such force could on the contrary suggest a permanence. Velázquez's menacing portrait has entered the visual canon and will continue to exert influence forever. Its offspring, this lino diptych, rather spawns an underbelly or counterargument, or a subliminal alter ego to the original Mars who lives on unchanged, but perhaps slightly encumbered.

The mirrored image creates the simultaneous effects of a vortex and a violent explosion (as in your linoprint series Blastwave). It would appear that the tables have turned and Mars, the perpetrator, has fallen victim to his own powers of destruction.

In depicting the God of War this diptych could be interpreted as the source of the destructive force in the other linoprints. It sets up a point of friction between similar but opposing principles. It is from this interstice that the destructive force emanates symmetrically, however the actual origin remains unseen, possibly suggesting an external or more fundamental origin. Despite the apparent destruction there is a suggestion of permanence, an immortality through metamorphosis or sublimation.


© 2007 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.