.M Contemporay, Sydney
Dates 01 May 2014 - June 2014
Conrad Botes at .M Contemporary by Nicholas Forrest
South African artist Conrad Botes is not only an artist who has broken new ground, he has challenged long-existing boundaries. Taking inspiration from his background in graphic design and illustration, and embracing his experience as a successful comic book artist, Botes has developed a unique aesthetic vision that identifies him as one of the most exciting artists of South Africa's burgeoning art scene. His practice is multilayered and multifaceted, both conceptually and visually, and can be characterized by its clear and simple linework, bold colours, comic book-style imagery, and expressive motifs, all of which he showcases through a number of distinctly formal processes.
Positioning himself as a spectator, Botes documents, dissects, and deciphers the human condition, drawing influence from his experience as a white South African male living in a society that is often defined by its dark underbelly to explore universal themes of hatred, discrimination, and inequality. He begins by engaging with the viewer on a purely visceral level with the familiarity of his highly accessible and attractive visual language, then continues the interaction on a more psychological and philosophical level, often using religious iconography and stories from the bible as vehicles for political allegories.
In "On earth as it is in Heaven," Sydney gallery .M Contemporary's retrospective of Botes's past and present work, his talent for using the human figure as an agent for conveying concepts and ideas comes to the fore, as does his mastery of the reverse glass painting technique, which he has made his own. Inverting the gaze back onto the viewer, the reverse glass painting technique invokes a certain level of complicity, heightening the viewer's awareness of self, while at the same time establishes clearly defined boundaries between the viewer and the subject.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is the major reverse glass painting "Hostile Territory" which depicts an African man with his face turned away from the viewer, his head covered with a dense teardrop motif which appears in many works throughout the exhibition. As the title of the work suggests, Botes uses the teardrop motif to transform the man's head into a metaphorical battlefield, the violent nature of which is counteracted to a certain point by the stained-glass window-like division of the surface into four equal parts.