Walter Battiss was one of South Africa’s most well known abstract painters. His thirst for knowledge stretched him in all directions. He was a jet setter, writer and publisher and also took part in numerous exhibitions.
Walter Battiss is credited with the creation of Fook Island. His travels during the 60s took him to many different islands, such as Seychelles, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Fiji etc. Fook Island, an imaginary place, was a fusion of his fondest memories of these islands. He described it as an “island of the imagination”. An island complete with a map, people, plants, animals, history, postage stamps, passport and driver’s license, captured the attention of his followers.
Over the following years the island gained popularity and attracted much interest. A study of many of the artefacts show some satire and humour. Never intended as a political statement, one could see it as a parallel to the South Africa of the 1970s. For King Ferd III, Walter’s alter ego, Fook Island represented a “creative utopia”;(source: www.mahala.co.za) a world away from the crude, selfish world we sometimes live in.
The innovation, creativity and diversity of Walter Battiss continues to inspire and challenge aspiring artists. From bushman to friend of Picasso to King Ferd III, Walter Battiss has a special place among South African artists.