Conrad Botes


Cain and Abel

15 January - 21 February 2009

Michael Stevenson is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new work by Conrad Botes.

Botes' exhibition, titled Cain and Abel, is a reflection on the origins of violence, a return to the very first tale of murder as related in the Bible and Qu'ran, as if to grapple with the notion of aggression itself. The story was translated into a gritty black and white comic published in Bitterkomix #15, and is exhibited here in full. A detailed allegory of rivalry, jealousy, corruption and lust, it forms the point of departure for many of the works on this show.

The black and white comic is reworked as a series of 15 reverse-glass painted panels, a medium that Botes has made distinctively his own, translating the graphic immediacy of his drawing into paint. In Crime and Punishment, horned male figures, their bodies inscribed with symbols, are seen to worship a lofty female figure, but the impulse is less one of veneration than covetousness and the desire to possess. A large-scale landscape forms the backdrop for the archetypal figures of two men fighting. A series of generic portraits of men is titled Hostile Territory. There is a pervasive atmosphere of violence, horror, grit, a feeling the artist describes as 'like shrapnel under the skin'.

Writing on Botes' previous solo exhibition, Satan's Choir at the Gates of Heaven (2007), Ivor Powell described Botes' iconography as 'an archaeological and largely decomposed mulch of broken images, holy books and shattered votive statues - the detritus of the imagery of the Christian religion, left over when God died'. The sense of spiritual bankruptcy prevails in an installation of sculpted figures kneeling before an exquisitely crafted stained glass votive box in which a scene of abject horror is illuminated. Botes also exhibits two new lithographs, Cain and Abel and Children's Story, the latter an adaptation of George Büchner's Woyzeck (memorably narrated by Tom Waits on his recent album Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards).

Botes (born 1969) is the co-founder and editor, with Anton Kannemeyer, of Bitterkomix, issue #15 of which was published in 2008. He is included on the prestigious Angoulême International Comics Festival in January/February 2009. In 2008 he participated in the third Guangzhou Triennial, China; other recent group exhibitions include Apartheid: The South African Mirror at the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona (2007); Africa Comics at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2007); Turbulence at Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria (2007); and the ninth Havana Biennale, Cuba (2006).

Botes exhibits concurrently with Pieter Hugo.

The exhibition opens on Thursday 15 January, 6 - 8pm. The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm.

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Reserved

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Series of 41 panels

Wall painting

Installation view

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Series of 26 pages

Lithograph

Lithograph