Thebe Phetogo, blackbody Composites (Conjoined Twins) (Detail), 2020. Oil, acrylic, shoe polish and collage on canvas 35.5 x 31.5 in
90.2 x 78.7 cm
Kó presents a solo exhibition by Thebe Phetogo, Blackbody Composites, created during his artist residency with the Arthouse Foundation in 2020.
Thebe Phetogo is an artist from Botswana who works in painting, sculpture and installation. Rooted in his positionality as a Motswana artist working from a place of dislocation, Phetogo uses art to locate and build a space for himself in history, as a subject and participant of the contemporary moment. His work explores the construction of personal identity and narratives, questioning how our understanding of gender, sexuality, politics and history are formed.
The title of the exhibition, blackbody Composites, is adopted from the eponymous concept in physics, whereby a blackbody is “an idealized, hypothetical perfect physical body and absorber and radiator of all electromagnetic energy, with no reflecting power”. These paintings are formed in monochrome, borrowing from the aesthetic properties of green screens on film sets. The series explores the relationship between the individual and the community, questioning notions of the ideal body and visibility. The result is other-worldly, yet also strangely familiar, often isolating particular individuals within a larger social group. The monochrome colour scheme and the detailed accentuation of his subjects create a spectacular presence.
Thebe Phetogo explains: “The idea of a different origin story for a black body is of interest to me, as well as the exploration of the limits of this malleable concept. During the residency in Lagos, I found inspiration from a variety of sources which formed the basis for a new body of paintings. These include modern African art historical references, Nollywood posters and my own impressions of Lagos.”
Born in 1993, Thebe Phetogo received a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art and a Masters in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town, and a BA in Media Studies from the University of Botswana. His work has been included in recent exhibitions including a solo exhibition, A Confluence, Unintended at 99 Loop Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa (2020). Group shows include Fresh Voices at Guns & Rain in Johannesburg (2020) as well as Joburg Fringe 2019, The Art Room (Johannesburg), The Botswana Pavilion – No Return at Gallery Momo in Cape Town, and The Botswana Pavilion – Subjective Nationhood at the Botswana National Museum and Art Gallery in Gaborone. Phetogo is a 2019 Cassirer Welz Award finalist and a 2020 Emerging Painting Invitational Prize finalist.