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THE SOUTH AFRICAN

Issue : August 2009

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New scheme to promote Art Fair


talk demonstrated that art fairs
Discussions about the Joburg Art Fair aren’t a contemporary phenomenon
showed the event to be beneficial, however, but his assessment of the art fair as
Artlogic have cooked up a Spring Art Fair a concept was ambiguous.
to bolster confidence, “What does it do for art?” he
writes Mary Corrigall asked.
Indeed the talks did not address
The recent Joburg Art Fair Assess- with his usual rhetoric, which his query. There was little mention
ment Discussions held in Joburg has thus far embodied Douglas’ of how the art fair benefited the
wasn’t exactly defined by vigorous attempt to position the fair as “edu- discipline itself or the galleries and
self-analysis as its title implied. cational” a “contemporary African artists – none of whom were repre-
Nevertheless the general consensus art affair” and as “an alternative sented on the panel. Nevertheless,
appeared to be positive with most to a biennale” – in other words Douglas’ willingness to engage in
agreeing that the Joburg Art Fair anything other than a commercial discussions, displayed his open-
(JAF) was advantageous to the enterprise. Clive Kellner made a ness to critical feedback. Alex Dodd
promotion of contemporary art. very clear distinction between art on the other hand, who was obvi-
In response to the toll that these fairs and biennales, finally putting ously speaking in her capacity as
tough financial times have taken on to bed Douglas’ assertions that the media advisor to Artlogic, discour-
JAF, Artlogic have proposed a new fair was in some way a ‘replace- aged arts writers from participating
scheme which should encourage gal- ment’ for such an art event. in critical assessments of the fair,
lerists continued support of the fair. Nevertheless the general tone of implying that the fair was a vulner-
the talks tended more towards the able inchoate entity that required
With a panel consisting only of self-congratulatory as the panellists nurturing.
individuals associated with the art used the opportunity to expound on
fair, Ross Douglas, head of Artlogic, the benefits of an art fair. The impli- The low sales figures for the 2009
established a hard line of defence cation was that it was necessary to Joburg Art Fair (JAF) weren’t
to buttress against the criticism the justify its relevance. But generally glossed over. The slump was
fair has attracted from the media everyone who attended seemed ascribed to a generally unhealthy
and gallerists, who have been ques- to agree that JAF has been a credit financial climate which threatened
tioning the affordability of the fair. to the city of Joburg, has aided industries across the board.
Certainly Artlogic have engaged in in positioning South Africa as a Aidan Walsh and his partner Andrew Verster share a joke with Peter Machen outside the KZNSA Gallery, Durban. Aidan Walsh
died of a heart attack in July and was one of the most amazing artists and art professionals in Durban. Aidan had an important
“The art fair took place at a very diffi-
some level of self-reflection, evi- “progressive” cultured destination cult time when the recession was
impact on the Durban Art Scene as a seminal figure as the curator and director of The Walsh-Marais Gallery. Other artists who
denced in Douglas’ new scheme and that it has helped render con- had their work shown in the gallery include Walter Battiss, Peter Schutz and Cecil Skotnes, Clive van den Berg and Penny Siopis. just kicking in. The interest rate hadn’t
and his more measured discussions temporary art “less scary” to the As a result of the high standard set by Walsh’s curatorial eye, many works that now reside in the Durban Art Gallery’s permanent
about the art fair. He dispensed general public. Kellner’s informed collection were purchased from the Walsh Marais Gallery. See Aidan’s Obituary on page 5. Photo: Peter Machen continued on page 3

Pie-maker wins ABSA R3.2 M Lost Orchid


l’Atelier Award 09 “not” a Tretchi
where, until last September, he The pie season being what it is, Graham Britz told Beeld newspaper He added that this painting could
had no electricity. Winning the Rosin says he will only be able to that forensic tests on the painting, be another painting by Tretchikoff
award, held at Gauteng’s ABSA head to Paris after December, signed “Tretchikoff”, showed that it called “After the Dance”.
gallery on the 23rd July came as possibly in January of 2010. He is was not the original “Lost Orchid” This is the first time that Britz, who
something of a surprise to the however, thrilled at the prospect. art work. sold the painting for a record
artist too. “I wasn’t even supposed “It’s incredible,” says Rosin,
He said it was a “mistake” to have R3.2-million including commission at
to be going,” says Rosin, “it was “amazing”, to be afforded the
stated in the catalogue that this the auction earlier this year, admitted
completely unexpected!” opportunity not only to travel to
Stephen Rosin painting was the original “Lost that it was not the original work.
Paris, but to receive so much
Rosin, who studied painting at Orchid”.
exposure. Until then, he plans to Beeld newspaper reported shortly
the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan
The winner of this year’s ABSA set up a proper portfolio, framing In fact, it was “without a doubt” not after the auction that there were
University in Port Elizabeth (though
L’Atelier competition is an unlikely the works he hasn’t had funds the original, said Britz. differences in detail between the
he never painted a single canvas
suspect. to frame, and saving up for his The so-called “Lost Orchid” painting painting owned by Kebble, and a
in his final year), has entered the The catalogue should have stated
European sojourn. sold at slain mining magnate Brett picture of the painting that appeared
Thirty-four year old Stephen Rosin competition for the previous two that this was “a painting in the
Kebble’s art auction was not the real in a book by Howard Timmins on
runs a family pie-making business, years in a row, making the list of Read the full story at thing, the auctioneer admitted in an style of Tretchikoff’s ‘Lost Orchid’,” Tretchikoff’s work in 1969.
and lives in a rural area near Plett, top ten finalists last year. www.arttimes.co.za interview published on Friday. said Britz. continued on page 3

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A HANDFUL OF UPCOMING HIGHLIGHTS

CAPE TOWN JOHANNESBURG


Decorative and Fine Arts Decorative and Fine Arts
Tuesday and Wednesday, Tuesday and Wednesday,
20 & 21 October 2009 17 & 18 November 2009
Enquiries: 021 794 6461 Enquiries: 011 880 3125
ct@swelco.co.za jhb@swelco.co.za
www.swelco.co.za www.swelco.co.za
The Great Cellar, Alphen Hotel, 13 Biermann Avenue, Rosebank,
Alphen Drive, Constantia, 7806 2196, Johannesburg
P O Box 818, Constantia, 7848 P O Box 52431, Saxonwold, 2132

JH Pierneef THE BAOBAB R 2 400 000 – 2 800 000


Pieter Wenning THATCHED COTTAGES R 600 000 – 800 000
Irma Stern AFTER THE STORM, ALICANTE R 1 800 000 – 2 400 000
Stanley Pinker SUNTAN R 300 000 – 400 000
South African Art Times August 2009 3

New scheme to promote Art Fair Lost Orchid not the real thing
continued from page 1 continued from page 1

dropped yet and no one knew what It’s an ingenious new scheme; it sponsorship of the visual arts as an But at the time, Britz said that
was going on. Quite a few sales always seemed implausible that an exercise in social development but Tretchikoff could have painted two
took place a few weeks after the fair. annual event would be sufficient to rather as part of their sponsorship versions of the “Lost Orchid”.
Buyers didn’t feel the need as they “grow a market for contemporary programmes, which are solely moti-
Besides several small differences
have done in previous years to buy art.” The Art Tour will not only vated by the necessity to reinforce
in the two paintings, the Kebble
artworks immediately, they could create more buzz around local art and market their brand and “provide
painting’s signature is different to
take more time,” asserted Douglas. but as it will be located in galleries entertainment” for their valued
Tretchikoff’s known signature.
and will consist of curated shows clients, said Keip.
The sharp 50 percent increase in
it is more likely that the public will Throughout his work, Tretchikoff’s
visitors to the fair was seen as In terms of these objectives, Keip
become more familiar with the local signature did not have lines struck
a positive indication that South expressed dismay with the fact that
art market and will be exposed to through the letters “f” in his sur-
Africans supported the event. Never- FNB received little coverage in the
more quality interactions with art. name, but in the Kebble work, it is
theless with flagging sales and press for their sponsorship of the
Of course, its success depends on struck through.
tough economic realities threaten- event. Douglas remained adamant
whether the tour is effectively and
ing its existence Artlogic have had that they would not sell the naming The sale of the painting has been
appropriately marketed. Grolsch
to come up with a plan to entice rights of the event to the primary suspended.
is the main sponsor of the event,
gallerists to continue supporting the sponsor as it would be out of step
according to Douglas. The Kebble auction was the biggest
art fair. Thus Artlogic have initiated with internationally established busi-
of South African art to date and
The Spring Art Tour, which will The art fair’s Sandton location was ness models for art fairs.
fetched nearly R55-million.
run in galleries in Johannesburg, blamed for keeping the costs barely
As a commercial venture govern-
from September 17-20, and in affordable for gallerists but Douglas The money went into Kebble’s
ment wouldn’t consider funding
Cape Town, from October 1-4. It indicated that while he would prefer bankrupt estate. He was killed in a
the event, observed Steven Sack,
is expected this new event will to stage the event closer to the bizarre shooting in September 2005
director of Arts Culture and Heritage
cement the gallerists association inner city, viable venues, offering which has been claimed to have
of the City of Joburg. The art fair’s
with JAF, asserted Douglas. sufficient parking and amenities, been an assisted suicide. – Sapa
survival is, therefore, dependent on
simply didn’t exist elsewhere.
“We wanted to offer both the spon- corporate sponsorship, which places
sors, galleries and art communities Robert Keip, CEO, investments and it in a vulnerable position.
another event that could extend premier banking at First National
When asked what was the way
the momentum of the art fair. We Bank, the primary sponsor of JAF,
forward for the art fair, Douglas’
decided that an event once a year implied that the development
response was unequivocal: “to
was not enough for that audience and enrichment of the visual arts
survive.”
to interact so we came up with the was not a priority for corporate
Tretchikoff never crossed his ff’s
Spring Art Tour.” sponsors. FNB does not view the
as with the auctioned work

Fresh Stormsvlei Art Festival not to be missed


A new Stormsvlei Art Festival is protagonist behind the Art Fair Restaurant (booking advisable
to be launched in the Overberg, and Happening. Highlights will 028 261 1167).
Western Cape on Sunday 23 August. be a demonstration of the black-
smiths craft, a performance braai, Any artists, performers or musicians
The Stormsvlei Art Festival, a one wishing to participate please contact
a furniture exhibition and a prize
day event will take place between Jannie on 073 030 7240.
for best moustache on show.
11 am – 4 pm at Stormsvlei, an
There will also be a country market Accommodation available at
18th century hamlet situated on the
with food, books, collectables Stormsvlei Riverside Cottages
Sonderend River at the end of the
and more. www.stayhere.co.za/ads/
Ruggens region of the Overberg.
Various artists will be showing paint- Stormsvlei is situated at the cross- stormsvleicot
ings, sculpture, installations and land roads between Riviersonderend The Stormsvlei Art Festival joins the
art in and around the buildings of this and Swellendam on the N2 and Overberg’s Cultvaria and Baards-
historic town. Bonnie-vale and Bredasdorp on keerdersbos annual art routes in
the R317.
Jannie Uitlander, the artist formerly opening up the rich, raw art talent in
known as Johnny Foreigner, is the Lunch is available at Zandrift the country.
4 South African Art Times August 2009

New R 1 M Firewalker sculpture “explodes” into shape


Marx & Kentridge’s Firewalker The sculpture will resemble a woman “if we carry fire on our heads, what
Sculpture rises on the carrying a burning brazier on her head, else can we do?” it is also disturbing;
Johannesburg city landscape but only from certain angles; “If one “should someone have to do this?”
approaches the work from the direction In her article for the weekender, Alex
The SA Art Times has commissioned
of the bridge, these loose steel frag- Dodd also draws attention to the pos-
Wendel Fernandes these past few
ments combine to create the cohesive sibility of theft, a problem which has
weeks to photograph the rise of Johan-
image of The Fire Walker... This image plagued various public sculptures in the
nesburg’s Development Agency’s
then ‘explodes’ into loose individual city in recent years. “We’re trying to
newest commissioned public works
fragments and abstraction as you move make it as solid and strong as possible,
entitled “Firewalker”, collaboration
around it”, Marx and Kentridge explain. but there is the chance that parts could
piece by Johannesburg artists William
Kentridge and Gerhard Marx. The work is being hailed as Johan- get stolen”, Marx concedes, adding
nesburg’s Statue of Liberty, evoking the that concerns about safety, and the
Big Apple’s monumental torch bearing piece being used as a possible hiding
woman. “But she is a very particular place for hijackers were also taken
Statue of Liberty – Johannesburg’s into account in the manufacture of the
Statue of Liberty – which carries with it, piece.
at every point, either the history or the Then again, theft of part of the statue’s
threat of its own collapse”, the artists metal might only add to the sense
say. Neustetter also noted the contra- of contingency offered by Joburg’s
dictory implications of the work, which, “exploding” and fragmented Statue
while its message of survival inspires, of Liberty.

New on the Johannesburg horizon: Firewalker, a R 1 M collaborative


piece between Gerhard Marx (left) and William Kentridge (left, in
hat) all made possible by Steven Sack’s (far right) hard work.
Johannesburg is well ahead of any other South African city in its
commissioning of public works. Photo: Wendel Fernandes

roselyn mcculloch–aloes recollected niël jonker–bush vine–the earthworm farmer’s cottage

SOLITUDE & things collected


k r a a l s t u d i o–364 milner street, waterkloof, pretoria
opening of exhibition–saturday 29 august 09, 12:00
rsvp: hanlieandclive@kraalstudio.co.za or hanlie on 082 464 6767
private viewing by appointment till 10 october 09
South African Art Times August 2009 5

OBITUARY
 Aidan Walsh 1933 - 2009
renowned for his hyper-realist land- O’ Connor, Malcolm Christian, Clive from Paris with a suitcase filled only
scapes, and also for his portraits, Walsh van den Berg and Penny Siopis. Other with perfectly formed paintings. Over
was a seminal figure as the curator and artists who had their work shown in the next two decades, the eternally
director of the Walsh-Marais gallery, the gallery include Walter Battiss, Peter gentle Walsh became one of Durban’s
which opened in the early 60s, and Schutz and Cecil Skotnes. As a result of best selling painters and achieved much
which often gave artists who are now the high standard set by Walsh’s curato- critical recognition.
of national and international importance rial eye, many works that now reside
in the Durban Art Gallery’s permanent If he hadn’t followed the path of fine
their first show.
connection were purchased from the art, Walsh has said that he would he
The gallery, which Walsh started with Walsh Marais Gallery. become an archeologist, fascinated as
ceramicist Carol Marais – at the time he was by the small details and arcana
presents
Walsh was also a ceramicist – was one In the early 80s, the Gallery having run of history. And indeed his paintings
of the first galleries in Durban to show its course, Walsh moved to the NSA,
where he was appointed as curator
often function as a kind of archaeol- BRAAM KRUGER (1950 – 2008)
contemporary work, and the first gallery ogy of the present, one that is forever
to host regular temporary exhibitions. and continued to support the work of slipping away from us, and it is in that A retrospective exhibition of oil paintings
This was something which he was young artists on the rise. But it was dilapidated slippage that Walsh found Curated by Dr Fred Scott
encouraged to do by Andrew Verster only in his 50s, during a three month a kind of spiritual home. With his
who, at the time, taught at Solisbury residency at the Île de la Cité in Paris, death, Walsh and his work joins the 2 September – 14 October 2009
Island. Verster, who would shortly that Walsh started to pursue painting past – in a sense – with which he was
Durban artist and gallerist Aidan Walsh
become Walsh’s lover and life partner, with seriousness.
died of a heart attack on 11 July at the so perpetually fascinated. But even as
age of 76, after a year of struggling with was one of many artists who had their Verster says that he thinks that Walsh Aidan Walsh’s life now crystalises into
illness. An acclaimed and highly popular careers forged in the fires of Walsh’s need to get away, both from him and history and memory, the passion, skill,
artist, Walsh also had an important passion for fine art. Other artists who Durban, in order to find his talent and inspiration and commitment to art that
impact on Durban’s art scene as a exhibited at the gallery early on in their confidence as a painter, and he recalls, defined his life will continue to shine
gallerist and curator. Although now career included Paul Stopforth, Patrick with an amazed smile, Walsh returning into the future.

Aidan Walsh and his inspiration


From Art Smart house in Vera Cruz. She was well over not, or was simply a joke. I knew it was Later on, when I joined them for drinks,
80 and had a collection of exquisitely real when I discovered it. Lize said that in the 1850s a shipload of
The late Aidan Walsh’s inimitable
illustrated books, huge and magnificent, Irish immigrants who were fleeing the
and humorous comments written in So much of my trips around the North-
on the rain forests, Mayan and Aztec Potato Famine and religious intolerance,
October 2005 linked to a forthcoming ern Cape, arid, desolate and stark, have
ruins, the local flora and fauna. Her settled in nearby Caledon. Amongst
exhibition. produced some amazing places, place
flat was filled with beautiful objects them were Walshes, some who had
The following was sent to artSMart by and Spanish colonial furniture. I was that people in general hadn’t heard of, names that run in my family so they
Andrew Verster, giving the late Aidan totally captivated by the stories of her and which in their unique way are totally were probably distant relations. She has
Walsh’s inimitable and humorous childhood, visits to Mexico City, to the fascinating. a theory that when they were packing
comments linked to a forthcoming forests and all the ruins. She was so Near Saldanah, I discovered some up in the Holy Isle, some leprechauns
exhibition of his works. It was written absorbing that I used to lose all count sneaked in and stowed away in their The General, oil on panel, 138x122 cm, 1989
upright stones near a remote sandy
on October 10, 2005: of time. Once my father had the canal tack which were thought to have been portmanteaux and snuck out again in
dragged, thinking I had fallen in. I have South Africa, and it is they who made Sponsored by Standard Bank and
When I was a child, we lived in England venerated by the San. They possess an with financial support by BASA
always seen filled with curiosity. And aura similar to that which I experienced their home around the stones.
– war-torn England. Although I’m South Miss Elizabeth Bamber stimulated that
African, I was brought up there because when I saw some menhirs at Carnac in I remember my first trip to Paris. I had
curiosity to an amazing degree. Brittany. They have a vibrant presence
my father had business interests there applied for the Atelier flat at the Cité
and the whole family went over – all I didn’t ever get to Yucatan. I haven’t about them. Internationale des Arts. The waiting list
seven children and my mother – and, been as much a traveller and I would My friend Lize, who one evening was was two years. Unexpectedly, Diana
BOOM, war was declared. Bad timing. have liked to be. And in another life, driving past from Vredenburg to Gonna- Breedt phoned to tell me there had
I might have become an archaeo- manskraal, noticed some indistinct little been an unforeseen cancellation and I
There was rationing. I was, I believe, logist. had to leave within ten days. My pass-
considered an odd child – I didn’t like lights flickering around the stones. She
port had expired . Well, those ten
sweets, so I used to give my sweet At least in this country, I have tra- turned off the road and drove towards
days were chaotic. I had my passport
ration cards (children got extra), to an velled to some pretty remote places, them. Her husband felt uneasy. He felt
and visa just hours before boarding UJ Art Gallery
old lady who lived near us. She was possibly the most remote being they were interfering with something
the plane. Did I need a Jamiesons c/o Kingsway and University Road Auckland Park Johannesburg South Africa
amazingly interesting. Her father had Pofadder. I have made two trips there. beyond them and that they should turn
once aboard! +27 11 559 2099 [tel] +27 11 559 3178 [fax] aedempsey@uj.ac.za [email]
been a doctor in a Catholic Mission It has a weird and unique fascination. I back. And they did. They both felt the
Station in Yucatan, and they had a really had no idea whether it existed or eerie atmosphere exuded by the stones. Read more on www.artsmart.co.za
controversial
contemporary
cuttingedge

attend!
sasol new signatures
art competıtıon 09

Exhibition
Pretoria Art Museum – Arcadia Park
cnr Schoeman and Wessels Streets
27 August – 20 September 2009

Gallery hours:
Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10:00 to 17:00
For further information contact
association of arts pretoria 012 346 3100
or visit www.sasolsignatures.co.za
Walter Battiss Supplement to The South African Art Times

Orgy 3, screenprint, 43,5 x 61cm, (Stephan Welz & Co. October Auction – Cape Town)

Reality is fantasy and fantasy is reality… Art is more real than everything around us because we crystallize it.

Walter Whall Battiss (junior) was engravings of the ‘Bushman’ in the at the age of 35 in 1940. spaces. Not much is mentioned other human beings and the world of freedom of expression. This
born into an English Methodist veldt near Koffiefontein. about the nature of their marriage as around him. He would later reveal perspective was one which grew
Battiss married the noted art-educa-
family of Settler stock in Somerset Grace was not the public persona that that he had always felt that he was throughout his life, as he had a keen
In 1919 the Battiss family relocated tionalist Grace Anderson on the 12th
East in the Western Cape province Battiss was, they had one son – Giles. an island to himself. It was perhaps intellect and a constantly inquiring
to Fauresmith. The sense of isola- of March 1940. Anderson, an older
of South Africa on the 6th of January the early foundational relationship mind. He retained a childlike curios-
tion he felt only increased when, due woman, born in the late 1800’s, Battiss travelled extensively through-
1906. His siblings Alfred and with his father that perpetuated the ity throughout his life. Undoubtedly
to his intelligence and diligence, he was intelligent and strong-minded, out his life. After Grace’s death in
Doreen were born in 1907 and 1910 development of a public persona – his early encounters with indigenous
was pushed ahead by two standards a painter, potter and weaver. They 1975 it is well documented that
respectively. The young family lived the artist-performer who became rock-art opened his perceptions
at school. He matriculated in 1923 were both very dedicated to the pur- Battiss visited ‘hippy’ communes in
in the Battiss Temperance Hotel. the self-proclaimed King Ferd the III to alternative realities. As a public
at the age of 17 and found his first suit of their own art and the couple both Greece and Santa Fê where he
Walter Senior was an athletic man of Fook Island. figure he was warm, accessible
employment at a bank in Fauresmith. held two joint exhibitions in 1942 participated in group orgies which
and could not relate to his sensitive, In 1924 he became a clerk in the and 1945. They moved to ‘Giotto’s became a major theme of his work Battiss’ persona was in stark con- and a strong role model for his art
artistic son. The family moved to Magistrates Court in Rustenburg. Hill’ in Menlo Park Pretoria, it was a during the late ‘70’s. He was not a trast to the conservative Calvinistic students and younger artists. He
Koffiefontein, an Afrikaans com- His formal art studies started in 1929 large house filled with art materials libertine; he did not drink alcohol and mindset of the country and govern- remained energized and never lost
munity, when Walter was 11 years and he finally obtained his Bachelor’s and layers of artworks and items col- did not engage in the orgies out of ment. He was open minded and his enthusiasm – he was a rare
old. A friend of the family; William Degree in Fine Arts from the lected by both artists. They each had lasciviousness, but as a means of free-thinking and above all believed combination - balancing teaching
Fowler took Battiss to see the rock University of South Africa in Pretoria their own bedroom, studios and expanding his experience of himself, in and championed the cause with prolific art production.

Father and son in the rocks, ca. 1949, oil on canvas,


60 x 76cm, Walter Battiss Art Gallery

This work caused a great amount of controversy both stylisti-


cally and for its subject matter – it was unlike any other form
Zebras in Grass, 1952, oil on canvas, 64 x 87cm, private collection
of painting being produced at that time in South Africa. In the
greater context of world art it was totally contemporary, while While once again the subject matter references Africa and San-style figures,
at the same time expressive of the influence of San rock art on the composition draws upon elements of Abstraction, it also interestingly is
People in love with trees, 1981, watercolour, 36 x 50,5cm, private collection
Battiss’ work. reminiscent of the fabric design of the Omega Workshops which had such an
Battiss and his wife Grace owned 2 black Scotty dogs named Lindy and Suzie. influence upon his wife Grace, who was a weaver and ceramicist.
Artist’s Signature Style
Battiss’ style moved away from realism toward a hieratic, abstract, symbolist character as he
sought to create an art which reflected his South African heritage – which he felt included the
art of the Bushmen. He worked in oils and watercolours, woodblock and silk-screen prints.
He was able to compartmentalize what he was trying to explore or express by working in a
variety of art mediums. He printed his first serigraph / silk-screen in 1954. The appearance of
calligraphic forms, animal and human abstractions and the influence of Ndebele beadwork
began to emerge in Battiss’ work from 1955 as he sought to create a new visual language.
In July 1961 he visited the Middle East (Baghdad, Persia and Arabia), where he studied early
pre-Islamic calligraphy, as he was fascinated by the graphic, fluid, liquid forms which he saw as
GALLERY
being derived from nature. By 1962 Battiss began applying paint with the palette-knife, straight
from the palette – drawing it across the canvas and dragging out the colours in rainbow-like
arcs. He then drew into the paint in a sgraffito delineation of form.
His Orgy series from the mid to late 70’s feature complicated compositions, densely
populated with bodies that contort and co-mingle – presenting a further challenge to society’s
perceptions of acceptability of gender and sexual orientation. Battiss depicts these taboos with
an over-arching lightness and playfulness of spirit. He also created and participated in many
different forms of interventionist, performances or art happenings and installations
from the late ‘60’s till his death. They occurred either as dialogue between him and other
artists, or directly with the public with some of these forming part of the ‘Fook’ experience.
In these art ‘works’ Battiss showed himself to be completely current with the thinking and art
trends being explored by his international contemporaries, and way ahead of the art mindset in
South Africa.

Symbols of love, 1966, oil on canvas, Greek Island, watercolour, 33 x 47,5cm, Red Bull in kraal, oil on canvas, 50 x 40cm, Pretoria Art Museum
122 x 122cm, Pretoria Art Museum Pretoria Art Museum
Battiss continued to push his work through an accumulation of
symbiotic influences while working towards a style that would
be uniquely his own form of expression. Here the motif of horse,
bull and rider refer to the simplified schematic representations
found in San Rock art while stylistically and colouristically he has
drawn upon Expressionism and the works of artists such as Oskar
Kokoshka, Ernst Ludwig Kirschner with their thickly loaded appli-
cations of impasto paint, bold dramatic colours and dark outlines. Coco de Mer, Seychelles, 1973, screenprint and collage, 57 x 40cm,
Walter Battiss Art Gallery

In both the Liza Minelli and Coco de Mer prints Battiss references the
Pop Art work of Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, once again
proving how completely international and contemporary his work was.

Mantis, oil on canvas, 90 x 184cm UNISA collection

Symbols of love and Mantis form part of a series of work in which Battiss created vast patterned
compositions. Within the patterns we may see elements of San rock art, hieratic figures, and the
calligraphic mark making of early pre-Islamic cultures. It also references the work of Cy Twombly
and perhaps it might have even influenced the work of Keith Haring.

80 000 buck or more, 1967, oil on canvas, 91 x 101cm, private collection


Summer, 1959, oil on canvas, 40 x 35,5cm, private collection
Battiss had now completely come into his own artistically; he drew upon his
African heritage and international artistic acculturation. His work was com-
Battiss developed a technical device of mixing his paint on his pletely contemporary in terms of international art trends. He had begun to look
palette, then applying the unblended colour onto the canvas with upon graffiti as the true uncensored art of the people; this work predates in
the palette knife in thick rainbow-like swathes of colour. He then intention, form and content the work that was later produced by Jean Michel
drew with the back of his paintbrush into the wet paint, exposing Basquiat.
the underlying colour in a method referred to as sgraffito. His line
work is reminiscent of Picasso’s Minotaur series. The subject
Figures and Rocks, ca. 1940, oil on canvas, 61 x 76cm, Walter Battiss Art Gallery
matter mostly centered on the human form.
The subject matter of this painting may refer to the gatherings that were held outside
Rustenberg that Battiss was invited to as a young man of 19. Stylistically and thematically
although not colouristically, it references the work of Matisse’s painting’s ‘La Joie de Vivre’
(1905) and ‘Luxe, Calme et Volupte’ (1904).

Mantis Dance, undated, screenprint, 40 x 52 cm, Pretoria Art Museum

Battiss created anthropomorphic and metamorphic figures influenced by


African Rocks and figures, oil on canvas, the figures found in San art that are believed to represent the San Medicine
81 x 101cm, South African National Gallery men in a state of trance – halfway between this world and the next, halfway
The Early Men, 1938, oil on paper between man and animal / insect, they may also be seen as symbolic repre-
In this masterpiece we see that Battiss has drawn together all sentations of the interconnectedness of all life forms – a precept certainly held
Battiss knew when he painted this painting that he had finally connected with a form of expression the previous elements that he has played with and investigated by the San-Bushmen. Battiss has created a bold and graphic statement that
that he wanted to pursue – the distillation of detail and design to the essential elements, the human and begun to create an art that while it references all these influ- may be read as both design, sign and symbol.
form forming part of the harmony of the whole – he considered this to be his breakthrough work. ences, is now making a stylistic statement completely his own.
Analysis of the artist’s work / key stylistic influences
Battiss dedicated his life to the study and pursuit of his art. He gained his artIn April 1965 he visited the Hadhramaut, Southern Arabia and in December
degree over an extended period of study as time and finances allowed. In a visited Jordan. In 1966 Battiss visited Greece for the first time, it lit a spark of
turn around, Battiss supported his studies to become a teacher through the kinship and recognition in him and he was to keep returning to this country
sale of his own artwork. He sold his very first piece of work at the age of 16. which eventually lead to the creation of the ‘Fook’ Island concept. ‘Nesos’
He took any available time away from work to sketch and paint the surround- created in 1968 was a compilation of images from the various Greek Islands
ing landscapes in a painterly, realistic manner similar to that explored by the he had visited. He printed 25 editions of fifty four colour serigraphs, and hand
Cape Impressionists. Battiss received his art training entirely in South Africa bound each one, perhaps one can attribute the art-books Battiss compiled to
and in 1938 he was to travel to Europe for the first time. Here he was to find the early influence of his mother and her book binding commissions. Battiss
that much of what he had been searching for artistically was confirmed by seemed to come into a second fruition after his retirement at the end of
many other artists on the same journey towards a new form of expression. 1971. He is quoted as saying ‘Happiness belongs to youth but I’m finding
it as I grow older’. Towards the end of 1975, in collaboration with Norman
Despite his dedication to his teaching, his own artworks and intellectual Catherine – the first ‘Fook Island’ exhibition and ‘happening’ was staged.
pursuits, Battiss always made time to form, join or participate in Art Societies “’Fook’, as artist Norman Catherine explains, was Battiss’s “user-friendly and
and Art movements. In 1939 ‘The Amazing Bushman’, a study of the rock fun for everyone” idea for art, his reaction to the deeply serious conceptual
art of the San-Bushmen was published - the first of many publications as art he saw while on his numerous travels abroad. “Basically, Battiss invented
Battiss was not only a prolific visual artist but wrote effusively too – obser- Fook Island because he wanted everybody, children as well as people his
vations, poetry, free-form verse and essays. Battiss was also to ‘discover’ own age, to enjoy the freedom to create art, especially at a time in South
the rock art treasury at Zastron in the Free State in 1939. In 1944 an exhibi- Africa when there was serious censorship,” Battiss believed that one’s
tion of his copies of rock paintings was held in Johannesburg; this was of response to a work was more about one’s own taboos and perceptions than
great art historical importance in South Africa as it was the first presentation that which the artist is trying to communicate. In July of 1969 he visited
of this form of art from an aesthetic viewpoint. His copies were faithful repro- West Germany, on his return he went to his holiday home in Port Shepstone
ductions without any interpretation or manipulation, however it was through to rest, he suffered a severe heart attack and died on the 20th of August.
this close study of the work that he found the key he was looking for in his Battiss never stopped producing art – it was his life – he never ceased in
Lina, 1938, oil on canvas, private collection
own painting. engaging with creativity.
This charming portrait is painted in a semi-impressionistic / expressionistic
style that at the time was being explored by the second generation Cape
Impressionists such as Gregoire Boonzaier. Not satisfied to merely work
of a more abstract, simplified symbolism. However he continued to paint
highly observed watercolour scenes.

Untitled, 1976, watercolour and white ink, They come – they go, gouache, 41 x 55cm
35 x 49,5cm, University of the Witwatersrand UNISA Gallery
Art Galleries Collection
This work forms part of both Battiss’ island and
orgy series.

Boy and bird, screenprint, 50 x 37cm, Pretoria Art Museum

Bird, tree, man and Boy and bird screenprints are reminiscent
of the paper cut-outs produced by Matisse towards the end of
Liza Minelli, screenprint and collage, 63 x 50cm,
his career. They share the same clarity of vision, lyrical content
Walter Battiss Art Gallery
and sinuous silhouette outlines, freshness of colour and light-
ness of spirit.

Silk Stockings, screenprint, Shepherd, screenprint,


45 x 36cm, (Stephan Welz & Co. 60 x 43cm, (Stephan Welz & Co.
October Auction – Cape Town) October Auction – Cape Town)

African women, 1960, oil on board, 31 x 41 cm,


private collection Barrow Hill, Ladybrand OFS, watercolour, 44 x 94cm, Pretoria Art Museum
During the mid ‘50’s to late ‘60’s Battiss created a series of A watercolour copy of a cave painting of the San Bushmen. This form of art was to revolutionize
compositions focusing on aspects of daily West African life, in Battiss’ approach to his own artwork, in response to studying it he abandoned perspective,
both subject matter and style, he was heavily influenced by the simplified the human form to that of a symbol and worked towards compositions that would
Bird, tree, man, screenprint, 45 x 36cm, private collection work of Maurice van Essche’s Congo series. become a patterned harmonious whole.

Alette Wessels www.artwessels.co.za alette@artwessels.co.za


Kunskamer Tel (+27) 12 346 0728 gerrie@artwessels.co.za
Maroelana Centre, Fax (+27) 12 346-0729 OPEN
27 Maroelana Street, Alette 082 652 6663 Mon to Fri 09h00 - 16h00
Maroelana, Pretoria Gerrie 084 589 0711 Saturday 09h00 - 13h00
Artists that influenced
Walter Battiss

Larry Scully (1922 - 2002) Hole in the Wall, 1962,


oil on board, 45 x 60cm, private collection

UNISA staff November 1971 from left to right: Frieda Harmsen, Leonike Drake, Walter Battiss painting a view near the town of Seymour, Eastern
Clinton Harrop-Allin, Hillary Graham, Karin Skawran. Cape, 15th November 1980

the University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria in 1964. In 1970 Battiss homeless and 700 dead.
founded the African Council for Art with Cecil Skotnes. He retired from • Black Sunday at Bondi Beach Sydney as freak waves dragged 300
Unisa at the end of 1971. swimmers out to sea – lifesavers managed to save all but 5.
• Floods and Landslides in Los Angeles caused 200 deaths.
• The First use of seeing-eye dogs occurred.
End • German troops entered Austria March 19 – Adolf Hitler tries to
Anschluss Austria, this was a primary cause of WWII. 1938 was a
He was awarded a Bronze Medal and Diploma at the 14th International
pivotal and volatile year as Hitler geared up to take Poland, Austria and
Art Olympiad Competition / Exhibition held by the Victoria and Albert
Czechoslovakia by force.
Museum in London, 1948. In 1956 he was awarded a Pro Arte Medal by
• Germany began its persecution of Jews.
Zakkie Eloff (1925 - 2004) The Hunter, 1955,
the University of Pretoria. On the 25th of May 1960 he was elected Fellow
• Seabiscuit and War Admiral competed in their long awaited race to
oil on board, 39,5 x 49,5, private collection of International Institute of Arts and Letters. He was awarded the Medal
decide the best horse - Seabiscuit beat War Admiral.
of Honour for Painting in 1964 from the SA Akedemie vir Wetenskap en
• Action Comics issued the first Superman comic.
Kuns. In March 1965 he was elected honorary member of the Academy
• Adolf Hitler is Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” (as most influential
of Florence by the College of Professors. In November 1969 the National
Early life Film Board made a film featuring four South African artists which included
during the course of the year, not as ‘best’ man of the year)
• Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Battiss showed an interest and precocious aptitude for art from a young Battiss. A special issue of ‘De Arte’ was published in his honour and
• Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia.
age, he would often entertain guests at the hotel by drawing pictures for presented to Battiss on the 15th of October 1971 to commemorate his
• Ball Point Pens are introduced by Hungarian Laszlo Biró – hence the
them. His mother recalled that when she tried to teach him the alphabet, contribution to the magazine and his retirement from UNISA. Battiss was
pen also being named a biro (UK).
showing him an apple for ‘A’, etc. he then drew the candle for ‘C’ rather conferred the degree of Hon D. Litt et Phil (honoris causa) from UNISA in
• The first photocopier was created and released in the USA by Chester
than the letter. She was very supportive of this interest and kept his early May 1973.
Carlston.
artworks which she bound as a book. She was trained by the publishing
• Nescafe introduced Freeze Dried Coffee.
house of Zaëndorffs, London, in book binding and was later commissioned
• The first ever issue of The Beano is published.
to bind the family photos of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. His formal A Year in the life of the Artist • October 30 – Orson Welles’s radio adaptation of The War of the
art studies started in 1929 at the Witwatersrand Technical College (drawing
1938 Battiss visited Europe for the first time, visiting the areas where van Worlds is broadcast, causing panic in various parts of the eastern
and painting), followed by the Johannesburg Training College (a Teacher’s
Gogh lived and worked in France. He was also to meet Abbé Henri Breuil, United States.
Diploma) where he received etching lessons from Emily Fern. Battiss con-
an archaeologist who shared his passion for rock art. On his return to South
tinued his studies while working as a magistrate’s clerk, and finally obtained
Africa he, Mac Caw and Boonzaaier formed the New Group. Unlike many
his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at the University of South Africa at the
age of 35. He was then appointed Art Master at Pretoria Boys’ High School
of the other members, Battiss had received his art training entirely in South 1938 in South Africa
Africa, and as previously mentioned he had not yet travelled to Europe to
in 1936, a post that gave him a certain amount of freedom and space to
see or be exposed to European art trends before. But this was all to change
be able to continue to pursue his artistic and intellectual intentions without • 1 July - The South African Press Association is established with
and this visit marked the beginning of Battiss’ wanderlust and his thirst
ever having to compromise on his artistic ethics for the sake of sales and offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein and in
to see and experience all that he could in terms of art, life and culture.
money. He was a dedicated teacher and never lost his enthusiasm to impart Parliament (Pretoria).
In Europe, Battiss was to find that much of what he had been searching
knowledge and a love of art to his pupils. He had a profound effect on his • 16 December - Cornerstone of the Voortrekker Monument laid.
for artistically was confirmed by many other artists on the same journey
students, inspiring many to take up art as a career while opening the minds • December 23 – A coelacanth, a fish thought to have been extinct, is
towards a new form of expression. He painted The Early Men - in this paint-
of others to art, culture and life in a manner that was new, unconventional caught off the coast of South Africa near Chalumna River, near East
ing we may see the influence of Henri Matisse – in both the treatment of
and liberating. It was at this time that he began to seriously pursue his London and is identified by Marjorie Courtney Latimer.
the figures and the background. Matisse explored such extreme treatments
study of rock art. • The 1938 South African general election was held for the 152 seats in
in his Pink Nude series. Battiss has eradicated all identifying facial features,
the parliament of the Union of South Africa. The United Party won an
the bodies forming symbols that like the San Rock art may be read as man
absolute majority.
or the human figure. The ground upon which they sit or lie has become a
Artistic breakthrough colour field of intersecting planes of colour – all perspective is eliminated.
• Paranthropus robustus was originally discovered in Southern Africa in
1938.
The Early Men – his stylistic breakthrough, combined abstraction, the Battiss was to take this to its extreme conclusion in his ‘70’s silk-screen
elimination of perspective and the reduction of human and natural forms to prints with the use of planographic flat colour, and cut-out silhouette forms
stylized symbols reminiscent of the Rock Art he had been studying. In 1933 of figures and animals. BIBLIOGRAPHY
another turning point for his artistic career occurred when he visited the Le Berman, E. (1975) The Story of South African Painting, Cape Town: A.A. Balkema.
Roux farm Molopodraai, in the Orange Free State; where he saw cave/rock Berman, E. (1983) Art & Artists of South Africa - An illustrated biographical dictionary and
paintings for the first time. 1938 in the World historical survey of painters, sculptors & graphic artists since 1875, Cape Town: A.A.
Balkema.
After his first visit to Europe in 1938 and following many discussions with Carman, G. & Isaac, S. (Eds.) Walter Battiss: Gentle Anarchist, A Retrospective Exhibition
close friend and former fellow art student Terence Mac Caw, they decided • New England Hurricane of 1938 (or Great New England Hurricane or of the works of Walter Whall Battiss (1906 – 1982) Standard Bank Gallery 2005.
the time was right to form an art group that represented artists interested Long Island Express) 40 foot waves destroyed homes leaving 60 000 Schoonraad, M. (1976). Walter Battiss; South African Art Library Series. Cape Town: Struik.
in creating a new art, pertinent to and for South Africa. This was formed in
1938 and called the New Group; the movement continued to 1949 and was
to have a profound and lasting impact on the art of South Africa.

Middle Career
‘Homecoming’ a book with a set of 10 drawings, was published in 1945.
Battiss became the editor of a new magazine, ‘Aurora’ he also wrote
numerous articles for newspapers and magazines throughout his life. He
visited the Namib Desert where he spent time living amongst and hunt-
ing with the Bushmen. In April 1949 Battiss visited Paris where he met
Picasso, beginning a life-long correspondence. He gave Picasso a copy
of ‘The Artists of the Rocks’, whereupon Picasso asked him if he thought
he (Picasso) was as good an artist – Battiss’s response is unfortunately
not recorded. ‘Fragments of Africa’, a collection of prints was published
in 1951. Over the course of 1952 to ’53 he delivered three lectures on
South African art at the University of London. From 1954 Battiss began to
experiment with various forms of printmaking and printed his first serigraph.
The appearance of calligraphic forms, animal and human abstractions and
the influence of Ndebele beadwork began to emerge in Battiss’ work
around 1955 as he sought to create a new visual language. In 1959 he was
commissioned to paint murals for the Transvaal Provincial Administration
Building in Pretoria. In July of that year he was appointed to the position of
Chair of Fine Arts, Rhodes University, but this was not a good fit – Battiss Battiss and Fook alphabet Double Portrait of Battiss
became frustrated with the small town provincialism of the Institution and
resigned after 6 months, returning once again to Pretoria Boys. Battiss was Written and researched by Cate Wood Hunter
appointed Professor in the Department of History of Art and Fine Arts at
DECADE
HIGHLIGHTS
from 10 Years of Collecting
for the Sanlam Art Collection

Knysna Fine Art 20 August – 1 September 2009


8 Grey Street Monday – Friday 09:00 – 17:00
Knysna Saturday 08:00 – 13:00
Tel: 044 382 5107

For more information call the


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Tel: 021 947 3359 / 083 457 2699 BROUGHT TO YOU BY
www.sanlam.co.za
South African Art Times August 2009 13

S A Ar t Times Co n tempo ra ry Arti s t’ s P ro fi l e

MBONGENI BUTHELEZI Long awaited


Staff Writer room in Soweto and study art at the Limited edition books
FUNDA centre. Much like his art,
2009 has been a frenetic year for
Buthelezi says, “I built my life up out of
of nothing.”
Mbongeni Buthelezi. The Johan-
nesburg-based artist’s first national Buthelezi’s first big break came Gabriel De Jongh
touring exhibition opened in May, when the Plastic Federation of
at the Pretoria Art Museum, and South Africa bought up his entire finally available
July saw him jetting off to Germany, stock of work, from his room. Then,
where he had been invited to the in 1998, Buthelezi was the artist
Kunst:Raum Sylt-Quelle Foundation in residence at the National Arts
to stay in the foundation’s centre and Festival in Grahamstown, and since
complete a commission. then the offers have been pouring in,
Buthelezi exhibiting in Germany, the
Johannesburg audiences may
UK and the US.
remember Buthelezi’s striking
canvasses from the Joburg Art Fair These days, with the artist’s small-
in April. Star of Dr Ralf-P Seippel’s scale works selling in the region of
booth, Buthelezi was feted as having R 17 000, Buthelezi lives in a double-
developed an entirely new method storey house in Krugersdorp, a far
of painting. cry from the one-room he rented in
Soweto in his student days. He is
Yet from a distance, one might
committed to giving back, however,
mistake Buthelezi’s large-scale works
by conducting recycling workshops,
for oil paintings. Rendered in mono-
getting children involved in collecting
chromes, sepia tones or in full colour,
materials for him and teaching.
the images of township life, human
forms and landscapes certainly Buthelezi’s travelling show, ‘Imizwa
resemble expressionist paintings. Yami’, which translates as ‘My
feelings’ is showing at the Pretoria
These are no ordinary paintings, how-
Art Museum, until 16th August.
ever, and a closer look betrays them.
From there, it will travel to the Sasol
‘Plastic on canvas’ or ‘Plastic on plas-
Museum in Stellenbosch, the Red
tic’, read the labels, and indeed, it is
Location Museum in Port Elizabeth
rubbish which is Buthelezi’s medium
and Oliewenhuis Museum in
of choice. Collecting plastic carrier
Bloemfontein, and continue travelling
bags and packaging from super- Asked by writer Mmutle Kgokong who had accessibility to traditional art until 2011.
markets, restaurants and recycle how he developed the unusual and making materials such as oil paints, I
bins, Buthelezi melts an average of rather smelly technique, Buthelezi would not have discovered the art of Read and see more work at:
5000 plastic bags onto each of his said that his humble beginnings plastic painting.” www.seippel-gallery.com
canvases using a heat gun. Initially certainly aided the discovery. “Lack
And Buthelezi has certainly had to Or see his work at: Seippel Gallery,
work ing with matches and cigarette of materials was a motivating factor,” Arts on Main, Johannesburg, Sunday To order: phone
lighters, Buthelezi eventually dis- says the artist, who began experi- struggle to reach where he is today.
covered that the heat gun, usually menting with discarded plastic when In June, he told Rapport, how, as 25. July 2009 Office 011 783 5080
used to strip rather than apply paint, he could no longer afford the water- a young man passionate about art, John Contat 083 2666 188
was the perfect instrument for his colours he had been trained to use at he left home with just two blankets Photos by Helenus Kruger
craft. FUNDA. “If I was a privileged artist and a sack of clothing, to live in a Artwork courtesy Seippel Gallery or P-J 082 4506 598
Cost: R600-00, incl. vat & postage
Durban Art Gallery / 2nd Floor,
City Hall, Anton Lembede St. Subscribe to
Durban Open Mondays to Saturdays Errol Boyley books
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Artwork illustrated from PAST/PRESENT


works by Andrew Verster on view from
12 August to end of October 2009

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email: info@rawvisiongallery.com | www.rawvisiongallery.com
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