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Walter Battiss - 'Untitled'

  16 May 2015     Archived

Important South African and International Art, 1 June 2015

Walter Battiss - Untitled

‘It is a curse for the serious artist that painting can imitate what the eye sees exactly as a mirror or water reflects images. It is obvious that beingdoes not exist in a mirror’s reflection, and so paintings that simulate the work of a mirror cannot be considered creative works of art, for man is saying nothing more in them than the inorganic mirror says with light rays.’1 Walter Battiss

This timeless and iconic example of late-2oth century South African abstraction incorporates a broad spectrum of contemporary, popular-culture and high-art influences from around the world. Between the time his brush first touched this canvas and the last, it was painted over a decade during which Walter Battiss had travelled to the Greek Islands (1968); Europe and London (1969); Spain and London (1971); Seychelles twice and Europe (1972); London (1973); America (1974); England and Turkey (1975); America, Fiji, Samoa, the Hawaiin Islands, Australia (1976); and Tahiti (1978).

In this time, Battiss had literally toured the world while becoming increasingly cosmopolitan, informed and mature as an artist. The resulting painting captures the breadth of these influences. There is evidence of European minimalism from the 1960s such as the work of Josef Albers and Yves Klein. One senses some of the optimism and hedonism of Swinging 60s London; the influence of the central focal point strategy adopted in advertising and seen in the work of Pop artists such as Andy Warhol; the flat planes of single colour apparent in the work of Tom Wesselman, Ed Ruscha and Robert Indiana and the charm and whimsy reminiscent of Bridget Riley’s Op Art. With a sense of the enjoyment he experienced on the islands he frequented, he infuses this work with the atmosphere of island life, evoking the vibrancy and brightness of Paul Gauguin’s paintings made in response to comparable experiences.

1 Walter Battiss. (1965) Art in a Mixed-Up World, Pretoria: Communications of the University of South Africa. Page 12.


Lot 255
Walter Whall BATTISS
South African 1906–1982
signed and dated 1968–78 oil on canvas 91,5 by 122,5 cm
R400 000 – R600 000

The Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, Walter Battiss Retrospective, 1979–80, catalogue number 74

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