15 questions for Anton Kannemeyer


15 questions for Anton Kannemeyer

Bitterkomix 19 has just been completed and is one of the best to date, artist Anton Kannemeyer tells LAUREEN ROSSOUW. Now he and his father, academic JC Kannemeyer, are working on a graphic novel about his youth.

  • 19 May 2023
  • Lifestyle
  • 5 min to read
  • Laureen Rossouw

1. What do you read first thing every morning?

I'm not quite that habitual, but mostly the book next to my bed. I stopped reading newspapers. Ideas like “truth" still fascinate me; any newspaper that purports to tell the “truth" should be read with the utmost suspicion.

2. What do you listen to when you work?

I often listen to music. I struggle with “podcasts" — all the so-called experts in their field talk non-stop. I tried but got irritated. I have a penchant for alternative music and can't listen to the radio at all. Often I work in silence.

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3. What kind of child were you?

I was a bit like SpongeBob — wildly enthusiastic but still being punished all the time. I was probably too enthusiastic. In high school I became more subversive.

4. Your favourite author? And book?

It is quite difficult to identify one author or book. But one highly influential book for me was Auslöschung: Ein Zerfall (translated as Extinction) by Thomas Bernhard. I read it again recently and it has lost none of its initial impact. It's a shame that he never won the Nobel Prize in Literature  when inferior writers such as his Austrian compatriot Elfriede Jelinek did

5. Highlights in your life?

To be able to achieve success in my field. And to be able to meet a bunch of my heroes (in the comic world).

“Compelling Backstory”, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 2 000 X 1 500 mm.
“Compelling Backstory”, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 2 000 X 1 500 mm.

6. Is there a character in fiction or film that you over-identify with?

Not in film, but in fiction probably Bernhard's first-person narrator. All his books sound autobiographical, but they are not. Other people often find him boring and negative. I find him terribly entertaining and ultimately positive. Bernhard is compared to Beckett — some people even find him too close to Beckett. His novels have almost no narrative and there is never any sexual tension. Women are mainly, like most men, maligned. The misanthrope in me is immensely stimulated by this character.

7. Which quality in yourself do you like least?

I wish I could work harder. To make my best work, I have to go to a dark place. I long for the light.

8. What do you regret?

When I was younger, I was sometimes arrogant and abusive towards certain people. At the time I saw it as a contrarian and rebellious attitude, mostly to screw people over (and maybe even to entertain my friends). I really regret that. And that I never had sex at school.

9. What are you afraid of?

It's a much more complicated question than you might think. Besides the most obvious things that everyone fears (like being stuck in a tunnel), I would say this is one of my biggest problems with current artists: virtually everyone is afraid. Afraid that they might be cancelled, afraid that they might lose their jobs, afraid that they might be bad-mouthed…So many artists make safe art, art that does not address the difficult issues of today. They toe the line, or their work becomes so ambiguous (or, rather, vague) that it becomes meaningless.

We live in a time when fear is dominant. In my opinion, the role of art is to offend, to be brave. Unfortunately, the art nazis control the scene today. If your art doesn't meet a narrow list of requirements, you can forget about earning a normal income. This is not a unique situation in the history of the arts. The establishment, with their narrow values ​​and limited moral insights, have always run the arts. Fortunately, there are individuals/art collectors who don't care about the establishment. As it has always been.

 10. What else would you like to master?

I would like to paint a lot of landscapes in a very loose style; my inspiration is the Expressionists and some Impressionists. For example, I love Monet's early and mid-life works, not those fucking overrated water lilies.

11. Is there someone you would like to make a painting for?

Yes. For my dentist in Stellenbosch. I owe him a lot.

“Crime Scene”, 2021, acrylic on paper. 2 050 x 1 360 mm.
“Crime Scene”, 2021, acrylic on paper. 2 050 x 1 360 mm.

12. If you could live a day as a comic character in someone else's comic, who would it be?

That's a surprisingly difficult question. There are so many options for me, but maybe Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes . As a six-year-old, I did not experience such a youth at all. My stuffed cloth crocodile was brutally removed from me at the age of five and thrown into the trash in front of my eyes so that I apparently could grow up all at once.

13. Who is your favourite female artist, apart from your wife [the sculptor Claudette Schreuders]?

In fine arts, Paula Modersohn-Becker or Alice Neel; and in comic art, Gabrielle Bell. Since the 90s, comic art has changed enormously with the entry of female artists, something that was extremely rare in this genre. It actually broadened the art form incredibly and sent it in the direction of a more mature market.

14. Asterix & Obelisk or Tintin?

You still ask? It's actually an absurd question, one that is probably only asked in South Africa because we were only exposed to these two as children. The first few Asterixes written by Goscinny, maybe even up to and including  Asterix in Switzerland , were good, but after that it was simply a money-making business.

Tintin is something completely different. The quality of the books actually only gets better, although the later Flight 714 is a bit weaker in my opinion. There is too much to say about Hergé and Tintin in this answer, but perhaps Hergé's work in comics can be compared to that of Hitchcock in film. Both were trailblazers in their art form.

15. What lies next to your bed?

For the past five or six years I have focused on writers between the two world wars, especially writers whose works were banned and destroyed by the Fascists. I read a lot of German and French authors, of course also English ones. Orwell's insights are always encouraging. But I also started reading a lot of classics that I hadn't gotten to yet. Currently Theodor Fontane is next to my bed: I have finished Effi Briest and am now reading Irrungen, Wirringen (Trials and Tribulations).


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