Cobus van Bosch  


Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet
Cape Town

2-26 September 1998


Appropriated Urban Alchemy

Minor, mute monuments to our urban existence. Unassuming emblems of our organised social systems. Testimony to “city culture’, perhaps. They have a humble beauty, these innocent iron coverings that dot our pavement landscapes.

Straightforward and strong, they speak directly of the duties beneath and simply, as if all of civilisation can be reduced to the ancient elements of alchemy: “Fire”, “Water”, “Air”.

The alchemist’s base metal, lead - that physically-loaded, patriarchal medium of sheaths and seals extends the poetic association as the artist moulds it into new imagery. And we romantically recall what we know about brass rubbing, medieval tombstones and the heroism they speak about.

If the covers of sewers, fire hydrants and electricity meters have their own quiet presence as we walk over them daily, Cobus van Bosch has reinvented and appropriated them for more complex reasons.

First we rediscover them here as sculpture, boldly claiming their space in the gallery. It’s a disconcerting strong presence. However, the artist’s theme is more compelling and human.

The man whose presence is recorded in the delicate paintings that pierce the brute surfaces of lead and remade civic signs is a person of the street. Christlike wild and distant, his is the mien of a hobo who literally lives on top of these iron covers while we sleep peacefully at home,

It is this irony of intimacy that challenges the artist to probe the meaning of the pavement symbols. It is the ordinariness and, at the same time, the monumentality which charge Cobus van Bosch’s unusual artistic vision of our urban existence. It’s a powerful jolt.

Melvyn Minnaar