Cobus van Bosch    

From Die Burger
5 September 1998

Striking exploration
of society’s underbelly

Lize Hugo

EXHIBITION: COVER, by Cobus van Bosch. Until 26 September at the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet, 120 Bree Street, Cape Town.

Most people associate manhole covers with things to be avoided on rainy days, especially when travelling by bicycle or motorcycle. There are memories of stolen car radios after your window was broken with one of these municipal covers, or (as women know) of men working beneath street level and appreciating the female body from an optimal viewpoint.  

These municipal covers offer passage to essential services such as sewerage removal, water, electricity, communication, etc. They fulfill a simple function, and their aesthetic properties are generally not noticed.  

Cobus van Bosch uses these utilitarian objects in his installation by making prints of them in lead, reproducing, reworking and reinterpreting. These common objects from the street are offered in the gallery as aesthetic objects. Lead, the non-precious metal of alchemy, and thus the metaphor for the most primitive level of the spiritual development of humanity, is not only used for these symbolic reasons, but also for the visual connection with manhole covers.

Initially the work has a strong sculptural impact. The designs are simple and striking, with functional motifs in relief that appear almost ornate. One becomes aware of these carefully designed works as objects in their own right, while urban weathering can be read on their surfaces.

Van Bosch not only shows these objects because of their esthetic qualities; his interpretation is much more complex and sociopolitical. He incorporates small photographs as well as painted images of a Cape Town bergie (vagrant). These delicate images are mounted on the manhole covers as small emblems or cameos. There are also small works with religious themes, in which suffering and the hero figure are depicted, as well as historical images such as Goya’s The Third of May 1808, in which a man from a lower social order becomes a hero figure when he is executed.

The artist also makes imprints in lead of inscriptions on war memorials and other commemorative plaques that celebrates good citizenship and service. In one of these he employs a photograph of himself as child, which he metamorphoses into the image of an adult bergie. He questions the borders of social acceptance and rejection.

Van Bosch looks at the underbelly of society; the downtrodden, despised and hidden elements thereof. On a psychoanalytical level the work can be interpreted as subconscious and hidden knowledge. The manhole covers are simultaneously a barrier and entrance. Art that explores themes such as social order and the uncovering of injustices can easily turn into a hypocritical sermon. Van Bosch succeeds in avoiding this trap. His approach and representation are not condescending, nor sentimental, and he does not try to make statements.

 

From the series Cover (lead, oil paint).



From the series Cover (lead, oil paint).



From the series Cover (lead, oil paint).

 

 

 

 

 

Uit Die Burger
5 September 1998

Samelewing se ondersy
treffend ondersoek

Lize Hugo

TENTOONSTELLING: COVER, deur Cobus van Bosch. Tot 26 September by Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet, Breestraat 120, Kaapstad.

DIE meeste mense assosieer mangatdeksels met goed wat vermy moet word op gladde reëndae veral as jou ryding `n fiets of motorfiets is. Daar is ook herinneringe van gesteelde motorradios toe jou venster gewelddadig oopgebreek was met een van hierdie munisipale deksels, of (soos vroue weet) dat daar diep onder straatvlak ouens is wat met die stad se drade werk en uit `n optimale gesighoek die vroulike vorm waardeer.

Hierdie munisipale deksels bewerkstellig toegang tot essensiële dienste soos riool, water, elektrisiteit, kommunikasie en so meer, en vervul `n eenvoudige funksie. Hulle word gewoonlik nie vir hulle estetiese kenmerke raakgesien nie.

Cobus van Bosch gebruik hierdie utiliteitsvoorwerpe in sy installasie deur afdrukke van lood daarvan te maak, dit te reproduseer, verwerk en herinterpreteer. Hierdie alledaagse voorwerpe uit die straat word in die galery aangebied as estetiese objekte. Lood, die onedele metaal van die alchemie, en dus die metafoor vir die mees primitiewe vlak van spirituele ontwikkeling van mensheid, word nie net gebruik om hierdie simboliese redes nie, maar ook vir die visuele verbintenis met mangatdeksels.

Eerstens tref hierdie werk met sy sterk skulpturele impak. Die ontwerpe is eenvoudig en treffend, met funksionele reliëfmotiewe daarop wat amper ornaat voorkom. `n Mens word bewus van hierdie sorgsaam ontwerpe objekte in hul eie reg, en ook van die stedelike verweer wat op die oppervlakte gelees kan word.

Van Bosch gee nie net hierdie objekte weer vir hulle estetiese kwaliteite nie. Sy interpretasie is baie meer sosiaal- polities en kompleks. Hy inkorporeer klein foto's en ook geverfde beelde van `n bergie uit die Kaapstad omgewing. Hierdie klein delikate beelde is gemonteer op die mangatdeksels soos klein embleme of kamees. Daar is ook werkies met godsdienstige temas waarin lyding en die heldefiguur uitgebeeld word, asook kuns-historiese afbeeldings soos byvoorbeeld Die derde Mei 1808, in Madrid: Die fusillering op die Berg Pio van Goya, waarin `n man van `n laer sosiale orde tereggestel word en uitgebeeld word as `n heldefiguur.

Die kunstenaar maak ook afdrukke in lood van inskripsies op oorlogsmonumente en ander gedenkplate in die stad wat goeie burgerskap en diens verheerlik. In een van die werke gebruik hy `n foto van homself as kind wat hy deur middel van rekenaarsmanipulasie metamorfeer tot die volwasse bergie. Hy bevraagteken die grense van sosiale aanvaarding en verwerping.

Van Bosch kyk na die ondersy van die samelewing; na wat vertrap, veragtelik en verskuil is. Die werk kan ook ge¨nterpreteer word op `n psigoanalitiese vlak van die onderbewuste en versteekte kennis. Die mangatdeksels is terselfdertyd `n bedekking en `n ingang.
Kuns wat temas van sosiale rangorde en die blootlegging van ongeregtigheid ondersoek kan baie maklik die spoor byster raak en `n skynheilige preek word. Van Bosch kry dit reg om hierdie slaggat (of mangat) mis te trap. Sy voorstelling en aanslag is nie neerbuigend of sentimenteel nie, en probeer nie om uitsprake te maak nie.