Archive: Issue No. 52, December 2001

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Conrad Botes

Conrad Botes

Conrad Botes

Conrad Botes
Portraits of the Doomed (detail), 2001
Reverse Glass painting
30 X 30cm

Conrad Botes

Conrad Botes
Portraits of the Doomed, 2001
Reverse Glass painting
30 X 30cm each

Conrad Botes

Conrad Botes
African Renaissance, 2001
60 X 60cm

Conrad Botes

Conrad Botes
Untitled, 2001

Conrad Botes

Conrad Botes

Conrad Botes

Conrad Botes
Reverie, 2001
Reversed glass painting
36 X 36cm

Conrad Botes
by Sue Williamson (December, 2001)

Conrad Botes considers himself to be a comic artist, and even though he may digress into making paintings on glass, or handsome and brilliant objects of furniture and lights, it is the jagged graphic line, the searingly acid, iconoclastic storyline which cuts to the heart of the sacred cows of Afrikaner culture which turn him on artistically.


Together with Anton Kannemeyer, he is one of the founders of Bitterkomix, a rude, cutting publication which the two started as students to jolt the establishment and enliven the lives of their gleeful peers, and which they still publish regularly. The Bitterkomix publications, still distributed personally by Botes and Kannemeyer, have grown to be something of a national institution.

Botes' own favourite description of his work reads: "The sharp lines of his figuration coupled with the bold strident colours, the juxtaposition of symbols and subjects, serve to amplify the contradictions and exigencies of South African culture and society. Racial conflict, economic and religious status symbols, false values and cultural mystifications are at the centre of Botes' crude, ironic, yet naïve attacks." This extract comes from the catalogue of 'In Fumo', curated by Giacinto Pietrantonio.


"With the comics, we're dealing very specifically with a South African audience who know what we're referring to. Originally we write 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. People can formulate their own ideas about the work. I do them in a certain way that I enjoy so much and I hope other people will enjoy them too."

Botes is part of a media-related show called 'Shelf Life' curated by British duo Smith + Fowle. This opened in London recently (see Reviews) and will proceed to Bristol, where The Best of Bitterkomix 2 will be launched (Bitterkomix is not currently in distribution in Britain). At a symposium around 'Shelf Life', Botes will discuss his master's thesis, which considered photo-comics in South Africa and the manner in which they presented race and gender as structures of dominance.

Botes is also included in the important show 'In Fumo', which opened in September, alongside such international stars as Jean Michel Basquiat, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Keith Haring, William Kentridge, Roy Lichtenstein, Julian Opie, Raymond Pettibon, Cheri Samba, Andy Warhol and others at the Galleria of Modern Art in Bergamo, Italy. 'In Fumo' is a show of work in private collections related to comics accompanied by a stunning catalogue.


Botes is off to Reunion Island for the first convention of comics in Africa (!). It will last from December 3 to 9, and Botes and Kannemeyer will, among other things, put up a stall for Bitterkomix and give talks. Reunion is a Francophone island, and a French anthology of Bitterkomix has been published in Paris.

And after that

In February, 'Passport to South Africa' will open at the Centro Culturale Trevi, Bolzano, Italy, with Botes, Marlene Dumas, William Kentridge, Willie Bester and others. For this, Botes will present one installation of 46 pieces - paintings on the reverse of glass in various sizes, two lights, and a box with a sculpture. Featuring typical Botes iconography, the piece will be entitled African Renaissance.


Born Ladysmith, Cape, 1969

Education and qualifications
BA Fine Arts (applied Graphic Design), University of Stellenbosch
Apprenticeship at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Agency, December to January
Diploma in Second Phase Illustration (Cum Laude). Koninklijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten, Den Haag, The Netherlands
MA in Fine Arts (Cum Laude). University of Stellenbosch

Solo exhibitions
January. 'Conrad Botes' - Exhibition of paintings and drawings. De Malvezijn. Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
January. 'Kras' - Exhibition of comics, paintings and illustrations. Gallery Mau-Mau, Cape Town.
August. 'Conrad Botes' - Installation of sculptural pieces and exhibition of original artwork. The Rivet Store (Levis Strauss). Greenmarket Square, Cape Town.

Selected group exhibitions
June/July. 'Bitterkomix' (opened by Antjie Krog) - US Art Gallery
March. 'Schrijvers op Zicht' - Exhibition of narrative art. Bibliotheekteater, Rotterdam, Netherlands
September/October. 'De Ruimte' - Exhibition of Post Graduate Students from the Royal Academy of Visual Arts. Haags Gemeente Museum. The Hague, Netherlands
November. 'Arti et Industriae 110 Jaar' - Gallerie Arti et Industriae. The Hague, Netherlands
March. 'National Comic Art Exhibition' - Johannesburg Arts Foundation, Johannesburg
July. 'Bitterkomix' - Old Powerstation, Grahamstown Festival
February. 'Gestript' - Arenberginstituut, University of Leuven, Belgium
May. 'Graphic Stories' - Gencor Gallery, RAU, Johannesburg
May. 'Retrospective of Bitterkomix' (opened by Johann Rossouw and Maude Felix-Faure of the French Institute of South Africa) - Open Window Gallery, Pretoria
May. 'Comix 2000' - Institut Francais de Bastica, Bastica, Corsica, France
June/July. 'Bitterkomix' - Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
September. 'In Fumo' (with Jean Michel Basquiat, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Keith Haring, William Kentridge, Roy Lichtenstein, Julian Opie, Raymond Pettibon, Cheri Samba, Andy Warhol and others) - Galleria of Modern Art, Bergamo, Italy
February. 'Passport to South Africa' (with Marlene Dumas, William Kentridge, Willie Bester and others) - Centro Culturale Trevi, Bolzano, Italy

Selected publications

  • Stet literary magazine. Volume 8, nos 1-4. Taurus Publishers, Johannesburg, 1990-1991
  • Bitterkomix no 1. Co-founder, co-editor and contributor. Stellenbosch, June 1992
  • Bitterkomix no 2. Co-editor and contributor. Stellenbosch, January 1993
  • ADA (magazine for art, design and architecture). Cape Town, March 1993
  • Bitterkomix no 3. Co-editor and contributor. Stellenbosch, November 1993
  • Posse Stip Tijdschrift. Contributor. Amsterdam, December 1993
  • Gif: Afrikaner Sekskomix. Contributor. Hond uitgewers (Pretoria) and Bitterkomix (Stellenbosch). April 1994
  • Tirade literary magazine. Contributor. Amsterdam, April 1994
  • Bitterkomix no 4. Co-editor and contributor. Cape Town, November 1994
  • Arbeidsburo Kalender 1995. Contributed various illustrations. Amsterdam. January, 1995
  • Formaline. Contributor. Turnhout, Belgium, December 1995
  • Bitterkomix no 6. Co-editor and contributor. Launched by Ryk Hatting in Pretoria, March 28 1996
  • Lag-Lag. Co-editor and contributor. Bitterkomix Pulp, Pretoria, November 1996
  • Zone 5300 Dutch comic magazine. Contributor. Rotterdam, October 1998
  • The Best of Bitterkomix. Co-editor and contributor. Bitterkomix Pulp, December 1998
  • Bitterkomix no 9. Co-editor and contributor. Bitterkomix Pulp, Cape Town, September 1999
  • Comix 2000. Contibutor. Lassociation, Paris, France, December 1999
  • Die Foster Bende by Ryk Hatting and Conrad Botes. Bitterkomix Pulp, June 2000


Alan Alborough
(July 2000)
Jane Alexander
(July 1999)
Siemon Allen
(June 2001)
Willie Bester
(Aug 1999)
Willem Boshoff
(Aug 2001)
Andries Botha
(April 2000)
Kevin Brand
(June 1998)
Candice Breitz
(Oct 1998)
Lisa Brice
(Jan 1999)
Pitso Chinzima
(Oct 2001)
Steven Cohen
(May 1998)
Linda Givon
(Dec 1999)
Brad Hammond
(Jan 2001)
Randolph Hartzenberg
(Aug 1998)
Kay Hassan
(Oct 2000)
Stephen Hobbs
(Dec 1998)
Robert Hodgins
(June 2000)
William Kentridge
(May 1999)
Isaac Khanyile
(Nov 2001)
Dorothee Kreutzfeld
(Jan 2000)
Terry Kurgan
(Aug 2000)
Moshekwa Langa
(Feb 1999)
Mandla Mabila
(Sept 2001)
Veronique Malherbe
(June 1999)
Mustafa Maluka
(July 1998)
Senzeni Marasela
(Feb 2000)
Zwelethu Mthethwa
(April 1999)
Thomas Mulcaire
(April 2001)
Brett Murray
(Sept 1998)
Karel Nel
(Oct 1999)
Walter Oltmann
(July 2001)
Tracy Payne
(Mar 1998)
Peet Pienaar
(Dec 2000)
Jo Ractliffe
(Mar 1999)
Robin Rhode
(Nov 1999)
Tracey Rose
(Mar 2001)
Claudette Schreuders
(Sept 2000)
Berni Searle
(May 2000)
Usha Seejarim
(May 2001)
Penny Siopis
(Sept 1999)
Greg Streak
(Feb 2001)
Clive van den Berg
(Nov 1998)
Hentie van der Merwe
(Mar 2000)
Minnette Vári
(Feb 1998)
Jeremy Wafer
(Nov 2000)