Latest exhibit from Conrad Botes is an exploration of the Marikana massacre

Botes’s powerful new solo show, The Goliath Protocol, is a glimpse into the mind of the artist as well as a snapshot of a moment in South Africa’s history

07 April 2019 - 00:00 By Julia Freemantle

The Goliath Protocol is Conrad Botes's first solo show in five years. The powerful body of work delves into recent current events, as well as the artist's creative journey and includes personal works and copies of drawings that have been reproduced to allow the audience insight into the development of a work and how an idea unfolds over time.
But the show's pivotal pieces are the large-scale series that addresses the Marikana massacre in 2012. For the past decade Botes has, through the use of allegory, focused on biblical figures and stories - in his comics and artworks - to explore political issues in South African history.
In his 2009 exhibition Cain and Abel, he used the first tale of murder as it is related in the Bible and Qu'ran in the context of SA's history of violence. Now he draws comparisons between David and Goliath and Marikana. However, this is not religious reference for religion's sake, but rather because he feels they're universal stories that people understand and can relate to. "I'm not trying to make a political statement either; this is my way of recording and recollecting history in a way that people can absorb," he says.
While reflecting on the Marikana shootings, it occurred to Botes that the myth surrounding David and Goliath has many parallels with the events of 2012. "It's hard to think of a more fitting allegory: a giant on a hill negotiating with a fearful opponent, a challenge that went awry and the slaughter with a ballistic weapon," he says of the dramatic pieces.
A big factor in this drama is their size - the works are large-scale canvases, including a 2x7m painting in oils that will be Botes's most ambitious work to date. This work will also be interpreted into an installation made up of ceramic tiles.
For this mammoth feat, Botes collaborated with the Spier Arts Trust and two local art studios to reconfigure the painting into a 4x7.5m tiled work, transforming it into something scaled for highly visible outdoor public display.
The three-stage process saw Karen Kotze of Woven Ceramics design and hand make 240 tiles, after which Wim Legrande of Black River Studio screenprinted the work onto the ceramic surfaces. Finally, Botes painted on the tiles.
The collaboration with Spier, which has been a patron of Botes's for many years, will see the installation housed in a public location that has yet to be found. "I think people are waiting to see what happens with the election before they commit," says Botes wryly.
• The Goliath Protocol is opening at Circa Gallery, Johannesburg on April 11.

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