Infamous graffiti artist and tagger from Durban, Philip Botha, was targeted by the local municipality and charged with more than 800 counts of malicious damage to property in 2010. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail, suspended for five years, 12 months house arrest and 16 hours of community service after the eThekwini municipality set private investigators after him and police raided his work, copied his computer hard drive and confiscated his sneaker collection as ‘evidence’.
Now, the graffiti artist of over 12 years is bringing his art off the streets and into the gallery for the aptly titled solo exhibition ‘Community Service.’
Philip says, “After being targeted and prosecuted for Malicious Intent to Property, I spent 1 year under house arrest, completing 16 hours of community service for each month of that year. I did not serve the community whatsoever. I tried – unsuccessfully – to have the terms of my community service adjusted to include work on youth projects and in community centres, painting inside the prisons. I spent the year mopping floors and washing cop cars.”
From tunnels and rooftops to gallery spaces and commissioned projects, Philip’s work is extensive and varied. He has been published both locally and abroad and has exhibited on the national circuit. He has created artworks and performed live installations for many big brands, including Unilever, SAB, Smirnoff, Ecko Unltd, Lee Jeans, Lecoqsportif, K-Swiss , Coca Cola and Mr Price. His graffiti has been showcased on MTV, SABC and e-tv, as well as by Universal Pictures and for the United Nations.
Community Service, the exhibition, brings chunks of the urban environment into the gallery space. The pieces work in layers of graffiti tags and throw-ups, nightclub event posters, election posters, abortion flyers, penis enlargement flyers, finished off with something that borders typography and sign-writing. It is a look into the urban environment by an individual who occupies that environment – “a real representative of the street”.