Conrad Botes   (b. 1969)
Pietà    (detail of roundel)

Oil-based paint on glass

Botes thinks of his work as a postmortem of the society and culture in which he grew up. As a white Afrikaans boy coming of age in the late 1970s and 80s, his imagination is embedded with the evils of apartheid, its obsession with power and repression, the violence and anarchy of the times and, of course, the moralising role of the Dutch Reformed Church. He makes these overbearing themes his own by using a comic aesthetic and (dark) humour to reflect on the continuing contradictions in our society. The very title of his ongoing collaboration with Anton Kannemeyer, Bitterkomix, encapsulates the bittersweet sensibility that runs through his work. He frequently makes use of the unusual technique of reverse glass painting, and the roundels incorporated into this work are painted in this manner.

In this melancholic new installation, Pietà, the artist has taken the archetypal theme of the mother and dying son and made it contemporary. An enormous sinuous wall painting functions as a skeleton for the work, and the 15 roundels are scattered across its surface. The disparate iconography of the roundels disrupts and fragments the customary allegories associated with this religious imagery, and the artist leaves us to create our own narratives and associations between the elements.

Since Botes graduated with an MFA from the University of Stellenbosch in 1997, he has exhibited regularly in South Africa and Italy. He was the winner of the Absa l’Atelier competition in 2004, and a residency at the Cité International des Arts in Paris was part of the prize. His work was included on the ninth Havana Biennale in March 2006 and is on the current exhibition, Africa Comics, at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. His first solo show at Michael Stevenson is scheduled for May 2007.

© 2006 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.