Walter Battiss at the Standard Bank Gallery
A comprehensive, if belated, Walter Battiss retrospective, entitled 'Walter Battiss: Gentle Anarchist', presents more than 300 works in a diversity of media. These works have been drawn from public and private collections, and reflect the artist's prolific career that spanned more than 50 years.
Battiss' weird and wonderful personal appearance, his colourful and eccentric persona, his insatiable curiosity about life and his remarkable work ethic continue to capture the imagination of art lovers and intellectuals alike both at home and abroad. Collectively, the work on show not only reflects Battiss' creative development over 50 years, but also provides insight into the diversity of his subject matter, techniques and styles.
In the exhibition's fully illustrated catalogue, well known artists, art historians and writers have focused on a few of Battiss' preoccupations and achievements. These include his interpretation of Africa, his exquisite watercolours and amusing erotica, his involvement with Rorke's Drift Arts and Crafts Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, his concept of Fook Island, his many travels to exotic places and his own literary output.
The chief aim of the exhibition is to take a fresh look at Battiss' contribution to South African art. There is evidence in these works that his discovery of San rock art brought about a significant shift in his vision of the world, and that this was reinforced by his experience of European art at the time: his meeting with Picasso, and his admiration for artists like Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Modigliani and many others.
Battiss' public stance against censorship is well known, as is his creation of the imaginary Fook Island, where artists and writers could express themselves freely and enjoy life. The exhibition contains a section dedicated to elements in the artist's biography. It is here that an attempt has been made to 'reconstruct', as far as possible, the world of Fook Island. Photographs taken at Fook Award ceremonies and exhibitions, curious Fookian items and memorabilia will be on display in an attempt to rekindle the spirit of Fook Island.
Opens: October 20
Closes: December 3
Standard Bank Gallery
Corner Simmonds and Frederick Streets, Johannesburg
Tel: (011) 636 4231
Email: Sue.Isaac@standardbank.co.za or Barbara.Freemantle@standardbank.co.za
Hours: Mon - Fri 8am - 4.30pm; Sat 9am - 1pm