Conrad Botes: Cain and Abel


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Conrad 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, a detailed allegory of rivalry, jealousy, corruption and lust which forms the point of departure for many of the works on this show.

The comic strip ‘Cain and Abel’ is reworked here as a series of 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 and Cain’s Lament, horned male figures, their bodies inscribed with symbols, are seen to worship lofty female figures, but the impulse is less one of veneration than covetousness and the desire to possess. Large-scale landscapes form the backdrop for the archetypal figures of two men fighting, and a series of generic portraits of men is entitled Hostile Territory. There is a pervasive atmosphere of violence, horror, grit, a feeling the artist describes as ‘like shrapnel under the skin’.

Botes is the co-founder and editor, with Anton Kannemeyer, of Bitterkomix, issue #15 of which was published in 2008. He participated in the third Guangzhou Triennial, China, in 2008; 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).

Currently on exhibition at Michael Stevenson