|Dimensions:||150 X 380 X 105 cm|
MAIN PHOTO CREDIT: PATRICK MAGEE
PHOTO CREDIT FOR ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHS: THERESA KAATI
PART OF (IN)SOMNIUM EXHIBITION AT CIRCA, August 2011
For some time now I have been mesmerized by embryos floating palely and ghostlike in bottles of formaldehyde hidden in back rooms of laboratories, museums and similar such dark archives. They are forms of arrested life, hauntingly beautifully swimming eternally, having us muse about life under- realized. In December 2010 I did a long travelling pilgrimage into the more arid regions of South Africa pursuing bushmen cave paintings of elephants. In the “Wonderwerkgrot” (Miracle Cave) between Kuruman and Danielskuil I found a number of elephant paintings among them the ghost elephant painting. In the Cedarberg mountains I found many more paintings of elephants, ironic testamonies to an abundance now no longer present. It is as if the elephant paintings fade in memory, a reminder of life not unlike the embryo that is no longer present. Soon too, the mythic drawings of elephants will also disappear.
Just outside of Uniondale I found another drawing. I was shocked that this elephant was just like the elephant I was working on currently in my studio – “Loxodonta Africana”. I wanted to make an elephant that grew to full term in the womb, floating, yet reluctant to be born.
At that time the haunting image of Andrea Mantegna;’s “Martyrdom of St. Sebastian” kept floating into my sub-conscious. I decided to shoot a number of arrows into the “Loxodonta Africana”. The unborn elephant hunted in the womb.
A thought came to me then of illuminating the elephant from the inside and that the arrows took on the character of a type of spectral halo, transforming or recreating the dichotomy between two extremes, mortality and beauty. It struck me in retrospect that “Loxodonta Africana” could be interpreted as a silent protest from within the contemplative embrace of my studio.
My elephants had recently been so malevolently attacked in the public space that it is difficult for me to separate these two ideas from one another. I originally proposed the elephant as a symbol of tolerance and co-existence. Our ever expanding industrial sensibility increasingly diminishes the natural habitat of the elephant. The very idea of living within a 21st century industrial capitalism that finds a place with enough space for the elephants to be wild and free, would be the challenge and the symbol of a humanity that begins to pay more attention to an ever depleted natural universe.
Andries Botha, February 2012