Garden of Gethsemane reveals GW Bot’s mysterious, poetic and insistently elegiac approach to the art of the print.
The work draws together several of the artist’s recurrent themes, including that of the garden—the passing through which is analogous for one’s passage through life. The gravitas inspired by the work’s intrinsic beauty is compounded by its religious connotations. Gethsemane was the site at which Judas betrayed Christ, and the three sharp slits cut into the top layer of the work’s central section suggest the crucifixes of Golgotha. However, given its essential abstraction, Garden of Gethsemane resists explicit interpretation. Bot is an artist always careful to compound, rather than restrict, the meanings drawn from her work.
Garden of Gethsemane comprises two prints: the outer work is on blood-red tapa (bark cloth) and the other, underneath, is on heavy paper. The three slits serve as small portals through which one may view the underlying image; the way the eye passes from one print to the next is analogous to the way in which the viewer will one day slip from life into death. When unframed, the tapa layer may be lifted to expose more of the print beneath it. In so doing, one gleans an exquisite sense of expectation as this solemn unshrouding is performed.
The delicate, pictorial detail of the work is typical of Bot’s art, as is her capacity to work with an array of different and unusual papers. She is one of few contemporary artists to have consistently used the medium of linocut. Although linocuts are often associated with the blockish, stylised work of Modernist artists such as Dorrit Black and Ethel Spowers, Bot’s use of the medium is in this instance far freer and more intricate than that of her artistic antecedents.
Garden of Gethsemane is part of a group of 24 of Bot’s prints and artist books recently acquired by the National Gallery with the generous assistance of this Canberra-based artist.
Gordon Darling Graduate Intern, Australian Prints and Drawings
in artonview, issue 68, summer 2011