Unless you've been in the midst of a self-imposed media ban for the last few months, it is hard to escape the wave of blissful mania that has followed the South African rap-rave sensations Die Antwoord. Since they were unleashed upon an unsuspecting world via a seemingly harmless Boing Boing post, millions have adopted the group as their new favorites. If you are like me, you've watched the "Enter The Ninja" video ad naseum since then. Between insanely catchy beats, helium filled vocals, ironic haircuts, gangsta posturing & an enigmatic figure substituting for their perpetually-missing in action DJ, you can't help but sit up & take notice.
Wikipedia for that), but let's just say it is a real concern. I hate to even mention it because it has absolutely no bearing on whether or not the man is a gifted artist. Not in that "he's good for a guy who [fill in the blank]" type way either. The man is just plain talented. While he may not be able to blend into a crowd easily, he really distinguishes himself even further from the pack by rising to the top with his work.
A huge portion of Leon's work originates from his love of hip-hop (mostly of the American variety), & that passion shines through, informing the pieces in the sense that they have a lyrical flow that many artists are never able to effectively capture.
Added to the fact that it appears that nothing Botha does is done without seeking deeper meaning, he wears his spirituality on his sleeve. (read: not necessarily "religion"). He peeks behind the veneer & instead seeks to further understand the unifying principles of the universe. Beyond the initial impressions that one reaches on cursory glance, each painting tells a multi-layered story that must be pondered before finally reaching a conclusion.
Time is also a recurrent theme in Botha's work, & being that he is a bit of a medical miracle, he understands better than most that we do not have infinity to explore our Earthly vessels. Time can either be our biggest ally or our biggest enemy, but it is up to us to decide. Applying this knowledge, he is energized by this defining principle.
(The video accompaniment to the painting)
He is also acutely aware of the theories of transcendence & legacy, which he actively explores throughout his body of work. Instead of me trying to paraphrase, I'd rather let the man speak for himself:
At the ripe old age of 24, Leon has accomplished more than most people have in their lifetime. He's achieved wild internet fame, he's collaborated on a t-shirt project, & he recently wrapped up his third gallery show (his first two were solo exhibitions while his most recent was a collaboration with photographer Gordon Clark).
"Angels Of Polarity" (Collaboration with Gordon Clark)
To top it off, I would be entirely remiss if I didn't mention that besides the gift of the brush, Leon is a sick turntablist, cutting & slicing through the South African underground hip-hop scene for the last several years under the alias DJ Solarize. Watching this clip makes me realize just how much I need to bust out my own tables & practice...
I'm pretty sure this cat has perfected Mantis Style. Speaking of...