Silent nouns and breathing verbs
20 June - 11 July 2009
A comprehensive exhibition of drawings by Walter Battiss, dating from the 1940s to the early-1980s, is only the second exhibition exclusively devoted to the artist's drawings. Up to now the only other exhibition dedicated to his drawings was a series of 44 drawings of the Hadhramaut desert in Southern Arabia, exhibited at the Anton van Wouw House at the University of Pretoria in 1976 to mark Battiss's 70th birthday. These were mainly brush and ink drawings of the desert, to which he felt exceptionally attracted. Of this attraction, he once said: 'Who wants to talk of a lovesickness for the desert that must be thought of and felt without words, with silences for nouns and breathing for verbs?'
The more than 60 drawings on exhibition attest to Battiss's preference for visual expression over lengthy verbal accounts of his experiences. The drawings signify a visual language in its own right, starkly articulated in and through the marks he made on paper.
The drawings range from early landscapes in a descriptive style, to impressionist brush and ink drawings of the Limpopo, and drawings made during his visit to Lourenco Marques in the early-1950s. The exhibition also includes drawings which herald the shift in Battiss's style from descriptive realism to abstraction, some of them strongly calligraphic in nature. Also featured is a group of diverse studies in which Walter Battiss focused on the human figure as subject matter.