‘The Anatomy Lesson’ is Conrad Botes’ 20th solo exhibition throughout his fine art career which began in South Africa in the late ‘90s. Conrad’s work has been exhibited widely throughout the world and has featured at numerous biennales, museums and prestigious private galleries during the course of his noteworthy career in the arts.
November 16, 2021
Conrad Botes has an MA in Fine Arts from the University of Stellenbosch (1997) and a degree in Illustration from the Koninklijke Akademie voor Beeldende Kunsten, Den Haag, Netherlands (1994). He was the Absa L’Atelier Overall Winner in 2004. He lives and works in Cape Town. Conrad’s career as an artist spans decades and is integral in the history of South African political and satirical art, starting in the 1990s with the development of Bitterkomix which was co-created by Anton Kannemyer and first published in 1992.
Botes has always been both diverse and consistent in his work. He has worked in all the media, from comics to sculpture, silk-screening to painting directly onto the wall itself. Some of the time, he is like Keith Haring, who could apply his trademark imagery to any surface (from the walls of a cruising toilet to Grace Jones’s body). Sometimes, Botes seems more Matisselike, constantly seeking a way to put another new twist on beloved forms of representation. – ShaunDe Waal (2012)
Conrad’s work has been featured in numerous institutions and important exhibitions including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, UCT Works of Art Collection, University of Cape Town; the Guangzhou Triennial, China; the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona; and the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Botes work remains in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. ‘The Anatomy Lesson’ exhibition features new paintings on canvas along with a selection of ‘photo drawings’ (India ink on c-print photographs) and two new silkscreen prints.
The title ‘The Anatomy Lesson’ refers to a famous Rembrandt painting ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp’. While this new body of work references Rembrandt’s painting it also draws inspiration from Francisco Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ etchings. Intertwined with Conrad’s continued use of biblical iconography and political commentary the artist creates an allegory that addresses South African history and the broader historical usage of imagery that depicts ahuman cadaver.
Starting from the time of the Roman crucifixions, and placed in popular culture throughout modern history and more recently in an impactful experience that the artist recalls from the late 80s in South Africa where fallen MK (Mkhonto weSizwe) soldiers were prominently displayed on the Apartheid government news. Images of dead bodies have been used throughout history as a tool for political and religious propaganda. Throughout the last two decades, Conrad Botes has been recording many of these images by means of sketchbook drawings in an attempt to gather evidence and material for this ongoing study of state-sanctioned shock-imagery used in the mainstream media throughout the ages.