Artist Conrad Botes was born in Ladismith in the Klein Karoo in 1969. He has a Master of Arts in Fine Arts from the University of Stellenbosch and a Diploma in Second Phase Illustration from the Koninklijke Akademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Den Haag, Netherlands. In the early 1990s, he founded Bitterkomix, a satirical and highly influential comic book series, together with artist and long-time collaborator, Anton Kannemeyer.
Botes’ work often oscillates between different formal practices; he is equally at ease sculpting or painting, and can be drawn into the complicated narrative of the comic sequential narrative or the austereness of portraiture. Yet when it comes to the content of his work, he is fundamentally drawn towards allegory and its ability to seduce the viewer into a narrative.
He often chooses biblical themes as vehicles for political allegories. “They have a familiarity and a comfort that viewers know and relate to, yet they hold the possibility to mimic reality and challenge beliefs and ideologies,” he says. Growing up during Apartheid South Africa, these themes also hold the potential for exploring the intricacies of guilt and complicity and their relationship to violence. “I am constantly drawn to the subject of violence and it’s disturbing affiliation to racial and gender injustices,” he adds.
In 2004 Botes won the Absa l’Atelier Award, and in 2009 he was a festival artist at Aardklop in Potchefstroom. He has held solo exhibitions at local galleries such as Stevenson, Gallery Momo, KZNSA Gallery, Erdmann Contemporary, ABSA Gallery and the Johannesburg Art Gallery, as well as internationally in New York, Sydney, Bologna and Trento, Italy.
Important group exhibitions include Victims and Martyrs at the Gothenburg Kunsthalle, Sweden (2011); Peekaboo: Current South Africa at the Tennis Palace Art Museum, Helsinki (2010); the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010); … for those who live in it: Pop culture, politics and strong voices at MU Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2010); the third Guangzhou Triennial, China (2008); Africa Comics at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2007); and the 2006 Havana Biennale.