Rites of Faith

Within the garish and declamatory culture of art-making in South Africa, Lien Botha has consistently proved to be a quiet, gnomic, and deeply recessive voice. Her visual expressions which, in this collection date back to Rites of Faith (1990), have always consecrated a charged stillness. Her artistic expression, even when it has drawn upon the details of urban life, remains fuelled by the country's heartland with its wide open spaces and its darkened shuttered rooms. The images from Rites of Faith - details of Florentian interiors - echo the shadowed interiors of the heat-struck homes in the Karroo. The link is further forged in the caption: "To live in the place where your grandfathers live. Imagine." What is telling, here, is the nurturing of the past within the present. Here the past is not a foreign country but a rich texture within the present. While another image bears the caption - "The house of Frederico Farlacci" - it is not the owner that Botha elects to depict but the sparse contents of his home. Hers is not the honorific and narcissistic world of Holbein, in which we will find a burger depicted with all his riches, but the humble world in which human occupancy is nothing more than an inference, a ghosting. Here the aforementioned surreality is registered as the extra-ordinary that is the ordinary. At first glance we may see nothing; that is, nothing that seemingly warrants attention. And yet, the more one looks - in the....tracted sense of looking without consciously seeing - we begin to understand what it is that moved Botha - the sacramental hearth; the locus of a daily nuptial. It is the very seeming nothingness - nothing happens, nothing is theatrically shown - which slowly and ineffably releases the numinous and auratic in that which is seen. The compositions are awkward, all symmetry distended. The resultant unease is derived from the refusal, on the part of the photographer, to offer a focal point. And so the eye, rendered bereft, is compelled to wander, alight on this, then that, drift. In Jean Francois Lyotard’s sense, the images are "drift-works"; quiet sacraments to faith in a world that neither cares for nor values such a fundament.

Ashraf Jamal, extract from Music of Silence  ̶  the art of lien Botha, Taxi 005/David Krut, 2002

The house of Frederico Farlacci, Last Supper I, Florence
The house of Frederico Farlacci, Last Supper II, Florence
Église Saint-Merri, Paris
Montmartre, Paris
Montmartre, Paris
Pére Lachaise, Paris