“When I drew, the loneliness disappeared. Then I discovered that my drawings entertained people and got me in and out of trouble. I survived school by drawing, until I ran away and finally ended up in art school.”
Born in Kroonstad, Orange Free State in 1947, Hardy Botha left school to attend Bloemfontein Art School in 1965 under Mike Edwards and Sophia Luckhoff . For three years he immersed himself in drawing, painting and sculpture, on graduating he won prizes for sculpture and photography.
“The next major influence in my life was tumbling into the theatre in Cape Town, working as a set painter for CAPAB. I was making props and painting sets on a massive scale for Shakespeare’s plays, operas and ballet and regularly went on stage as an extra when needed.” At the same time he continued his studies at the Cape Town Art Centre in life drawing and sculpture under Richard Wake. In addition, he moved into a house where the local circus troupe practices trapeze in the garden. The carnivalesque and the theatrical were to become deeply embedded in his work.
During this time, from 1969 to 1976, Hardy travelled to Europe and exhibited his work in London. On his return to South Africa, he held his first solo exhibition in Stellenbosch. This was followed by exhibitions at the South African Association of Arts in all four provinces, where critics praised his delicate and sensitive paintings.
In 1975, he was the youngest artist to be selected to represent South Africa: this time at the São Paulo Biennale. He travelled to South America and the USA and came back to hold solo exhibitions throughout the country and participate in international exhibitions.
Moving out of Cape Town to the historic Melkbosch farm, Hardy entered a very productive period of his life. His paintings were seductive, whimsical and deceptively, both brutal and playful. As Marilyn Martin, former director of the South African National Art Gallery said: “Hardy is a rare example of an artist who can tell his story, convey his message without forfeiting the intricacies of technique, above all the artist as magician and prophet.”
By the end of the 1970’s, Hardy was asked to teach at both Stellenbosch and Cape Town universities. For the next twelve years, he taught and continued painting and exhibiting. In 1985, he held a solo exhibition at the Stellenbosch Art Museum, and in 1986, became a founding member and resident artist at the Dal Josaphat Art Foundation outside Paarl.
Since 1995, Hardy has lived in Cape Town, holding solo exhibitions and participating in group shows. He had a major retrospective exhibition at the Stellenbosch Art Museum in 2008. He is represented in Art Museums and private collections throughout South Africa, as well as the Sterckshof Museum in Antwerp.