Cobus van Bosch

From the Cape Times
27 February 2002

Pure aesthetic pieces of
abstract geometry

LLOYD POLLAK reviews Cobus van Bosch’s exhibition of low-relief sculpture, Monument, at the Association for the Visual Arts (AVA), Church Street, Cape Town. Runs until Saturday.

IN Monument Van Bosch presents works of contrasting scale and shape - circular, square, and rectangular. All simulate drain-covers.

The elegant aesthetic of raised geometric patterns evolved by designers of street furniture - trellis-patterns, dots, chequer boards, parallel lines and intersecting arcs - embellish all the works. The pieces were sand-cast in iron to give them a rough, rugged appearance suggestive of age and exposure to the elements.

Most pieces look massive and slabby and their weighty substantiveness gives them the imposing, authoritative presence conveyed by the title Monument.

The stark brown hue and strict geometricity of shape and design seem austere but this is somewhat offset by subtle colour. Three female nudes are painted, but in general, the patination is simply, produced by rust, which creates seductive dusky, tawny yellows, oranges, honeys and ambers.

The works are grouped singly, in pairs or in triptychs, and divide into pure pieces of abstract geometry, and pieces, which also contain imagery.

Untitled 5, 6 and 7, which form an extremely arresting triptych, consist exclusively of geometric patterning and achieve a commanding abstract magnificence. From afar they look a matt rich earthy brown, but as one moves closer, the raised areas gleam in a manner far more reminiscent of a tiger’s eye than metal. The lower relief areas in the immediate vicinity of the pattern have rusted into a mellow honey colour which contrasts with the dark brick red of the weathered iron. The combination of patterning, colour, sheen and reflectivity in these memorial plaques to our urban archaeology achieve a spellbinding effect.

The figurative works reflect Van Bosch’s ambivalent attitude towards his Afrikaans heritage, and many phrase a critique of nationalism, apartheid, Calvinist puritanism, the repressive role of the Dutch Reformed Church and the cult of the volk who viewed themselves as the chosen people.

One of the most handsome works, Untitled 19, is cast in the shape of a round drain cover and looks like an ancient shield. A small fan-shaped area carries a vignette of a solemn, craggy-faced old soldier and the strict patterns smack of rigid authoritarian control.

Inscribing drain-covers, which conceal sewerage and waste, with images of churches, war memorials, nationalist soldiers and nationalist monuments, seems to equate them with faeces. All the works are rusted and their eroded condition indicates that the values the images celebrate are outmoded, and in a state of decay.

Certain critics find Van Bosch’s low relief sculpture crude, but the very crudity suggests erosion, neglect and disintegration.

Frequently Van Bosch memorialises little things that had a profound personal effect upon him, such as the porn he furtively consulted as a randy masturbating schoolboy, his home, and the corner café where he shopped.

Everyone should see Monument as it abounds iconic images that provide a deep insight into this artist’s troubled psyche.