Cobus van Bosch    

From Die Burger
6 April 2013

Van Bosch paints to
explore history

The visual artist Cobus van Bosch continues to delve into the history of South African minority groups in a new series of oil paintings, Vergete Verledes (Forgotten Histories), at this year’s Klein Karoo National Arts Festival in Oudtshoorn. He spoke to Laetitia Pople.

A visit to the Cape Archives left him with enough material for a lifetime’s work, Van Bosch says.

At school he had heard of very little other than Ryk Tulbagh, the Great Trek and the Anglo Boer War. He was later astonished by the rich history of the Northern Cape.

“It was our Wild West. I then thought about painting portraits and landscapes from the southern African past. Some of the images in the current series were found at archives in Cape Town – I spent a week paging through hundreds of albums and looking at thousands of photographs.”

The current project is an extension of the exhibitions Bastard on the US Woordfees in 2010 and Forgotten Freedom Fighters in the Johans Borman Gallery in Cape Town in 2011. The entire latter series of works was bought by a mining company. “It was about 40 portraits of Griqua, Nama and so-called Bastard captains from mainly the 19th century.” He is happy that the portraits are under one roof and in corporate hands. “Hopefully it will escape the attic and stay together as a series”.

Is a survey of history a conscious effort to not to forget the past? Do we ever learn from our mistakes?

“One of the reasons I paint the past is because so many incredible stories are locked up in it. I believe that knowing more about the past enriches you, even if it only teaches you that everything stays the same. People today fight over the same issues as 200 years ago, they dream about the same things and are scared of the same things. But it is the colouring of these basic scenarios that fascinates so much.

What evolves from the careful re-painting of the past? “I believe that the paintings, especially when they are exhibited, bring something about the past forward to the present, including those episodes I find meaningful.”

Rendering photographs in paint also requires interpretation, he says. “I had to guess colours and erase or add detail to improve the composition of the images. It is therefore a view of the past through a contemporary lens, which is the case with all history writing.

Any feedback (on the paintings)? “In 2010 I worked with representatives of the Griqua to obtain photographic material and their reaction was positive. I have never been criticised for working with the histories of “others”. The past has no owners.”

 

 

 

 



Cornelius Fredericks, 2013, oil on canvas, 38cm x 76cm.



Sanna Dewald and Margarete Bok, Rehoboth, around 1910, 2013, oil on canvas, 40cm x 60cm.
 



Leper patients on Robben Island, 2013, oil on canvas, 50cm x 76cm.
 

Uit Die Burger
6 April 2013

Van Bosch skilder as 'n manier om die geskiedenis te verken

Die visuele kunstenaar Cobus van Bosch delf voort in die geskiedenis van Suid-Afrikaanse minderheidsgroepe met ’n nuwe reeks olieverf­skilderye, Vergete Verledes, vanjaar op die Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees op Oudtshoorn. Hy het met Laetitia Pople gepraat.

’n Besoek aan die Kaapse Argief het hom met genoeg materiaal vir ’n leeftyd se skilderwerk gelaat, vertel Cobus van Bosch.

Op skool het hy oor “weinig meer as Ryk Tulbagh, die Groot Trek en die Anglo-Boereoorlog gehoor. Hy was later verstom oor die ryk geskiedenis van die Noord-Kaap.

“Dit was ons Wilde Weste. Ek het toe daaraan begin dink om portrette en landskappe uit die verlede van suidelike Afrika te skilder. Sommige van die beelde in die huidige reeks is gevind in die argief in Kaapstad - ek het ’n week lank deur honderde albums geblaai en na derduisende foto’s gekyk.”

Die huidige projek bou voort op die tentoonstellings Bastard wat op die US Woordfees in 2010 was en Forgotten Freedom Fighters in die Johans Borman-galery in Kaapstad in 2011. Laasgenoemde reeks is in sy geheel deur ’n mynmaatskappy gekoop. “Dis bykans 40 portrette van Griekwa-, Nama- en sogenaamde Baster-kapteins uit hoofsaaklik die 19de eeu.” Hy is bly dat die portrette almal onder een dak en in korporatiewe besit is. “Hopelik spring dit die solder vry en word dit nie verstrooi nie.”

Is die verkenning van die geskiedenis ’n bewuste poging om die verlede nie te vergeet nie? Leer ons ooit uit ons vergrype?

“Een van die redes hoekom ek die verlede skilder, is omdat soveel ongelooflike verhale daarin opgesluit le. Ek glo jy is ryker as jy meer weet van die verlede, al leer jy maar net dat alles dieselfde bly. Mense baklei vandag oor dieselfde goed as 200 jaar gelede, droom dieselfde drome, en is bang vir dieselfde dinge. Dis egter die inkleding van hierdie basiese scenario wat so boei.”

Wat kom na vore met die stip naskildering van die verlede? “Ek glo dat die skilderye, veral die tentoonstelling daarvan, iets omtrent die verlede weer vorentoe bring, ook die episodes wat ek betekenisvol vind.”

Die naskildering van foto’s vereis ook interpretasie, vertel hy. “Ek moes byvoorbeeld die kleure raai, sekere detail uitlaat, en weer ander inwerk om die prent se komposisie te verbeter. Dit is dus ’n blik op die verlede deur ’n hedendaagse bril, soos alle geskiedskrywing maar is.”

Wat was die terugvoer? “Ek het in 2010 met amptelike verteenwoordigers van die Griekwas gewerk om fotomateriaal te kry, en terugvoer van hulle was positief. Ek het nog nooit vreemde terugvoer van enigiemand gekry dat ek byvoorbeeld werk met ‘ander’ se geskiedenisse nie. Die verlede het nie eienaars nie.”