Conrad Botes

Graphic artist, Painter – South African


conrad botes

Conrad Botes was born in 1969 in the Western Cape. He acquired his MA (Fine Arts) degree at the University of Stellenbosch in 1997 and obtained a diploma in illustration second phase at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague, The Netherlands (1994). In 2004 Botes won the Absa l’Atelier award, and in 2009 he was festival artist at Aardklop in Potchefstroom and has since exhibited in several group exhibitions both locally and abroad. His biting satire, frequently directed at South African society, politics and religion, is channelled into both his painting and printmaking, and his comicsTogether with Anton Kannemeyer, Conrad Botes is one of the founders of Bitterkomix, a rude almost abusive, cutting publication which the two started as students to jolt the establishment and enliven the lives of their gleeful peers, and which is still published regularly. The Bitterkomix publications have grown to be something of a national institution.

Conrad Botes elaborates: “With the comics, we’re dealing very specifically with a South African audience who know what we’re referring to. Originally we wrote them in Afrikaans, so many of the references are to things in Afrikaans culture. The paintings I make are much more personal. I can explain them if I have to – but I’d much rather not. It is difficult to explain something that you are meant to feel. People can formulate their own ideas about the work, the viewers reaction is more important than my own explanation”.

With his monoprints, silkscreens, lithographs and other work on paper, Conrad Botes indisputably proves his status as ‘torchbearer of the Post-Pop movement in South Africa’, according to Alet Voster from the AOP gallery. In his recent of three new landscapes he describes themas “look[ing] at the relationship between consumerism and zombie culture. I tried to approach the traditional genre of the landscape in a different, almost forensic way. By discarding the romantic content of the traditional landscape, I was left with the formal aspects of landscape drawing wich I then combined with ascorbic colour and pattern.”With his icons of atavistic males and females, including the ‘tortured soul’ and the femme fatale, Botes mocks conventional notions of individualism and ‘humanism’, ranging from romantic love to self-flagellation. Botes has been portrayed in critical literature as the ‘posthuman’ artist par excellence (Ashraf Jamal, 2004). That said, he gives the sweet sentimentality, typical of many of Post-Pop’s practitioners, a bittersweet edge in his latest work.Botes uses Post-Pop’s preference for ‘sugary infantilism’ to reflect on contemporary society. In such a society, religion is irreverent, violence is desirable, sadism institutionalised, and the individual triumphant in his existential crisis. Botes’ work achieves an interesting fusion of the pastoral with contemporary realities and aesthetics: flowers are often wounds in his works and birds are harbingers of doom.