7 January 2004
Conrad Botes, the South African artist internationally known as one of the founders of the irreverent comic publication Bitterkomix, is holding his first solo exhibition in the United States.
The Big White Sleep, at the The Scene Gallery in New York City, also features a collaboration with New York artist Stephanie Diamond. It runs until 31 January 2004.
Bitterkomix is something of a cultural institution in South Africa. The publication is characterised by its sexually and racially charged imagery and its acerbic debunking of everything held dear by the Afrikaner establishment.
The iconoclastic sensibility and bold graphic style of Bitterkomix reverberates throughout Botes’s versatile artistic production.
Whether it is in his canvases, in his delicate paintings on glass, or mixed media installations, Botes’s works are distinguished by a pop sensibility, bright colours and a dark, sometimes outright cruel, sense of humour.
At the core of Botes’s work is a relentless examination of the unspeakable trauma inflicted to generations of South Africans by the legacy of the apartheid.
As Botes says: “Since I grew up as a white male under apartheid it makes sense to make art about hierarchy, abuse of power, domination, suppression and so forth. Self criticism, subversion and confrontation are important elements that I want to pursue in my work.”
For his collaboration with Diamond, Botes has painted onto a series of Diamond’s photographs.
“Botes’s direct iconography painted on top of my subtle imagery works as if someone was painting my private thoughts,” says Diamond.
Botes was born in Ladysmith in the Western Cape in 1969. He studied graphic design and illustration at the University of Stellenbosch. Here, he met Anton “Joe Dog” Kannemeyer with whom he founded Bitterkomix in 1992.
Botes has exhibited widely in South Africa and Europe. His recent exhibitions include “Passport to South Africa”, Centro Culturale Trevi, Bolzano, Italy; “In Fumo”, Galleria of Modern Art, Bergamo, Italy and “Comix 2000”, Institute Français de Bastica, Corsica, France.