Liberty Battson is a conceptual artist born and raised in Benoni, South Africa. She matriculated from St. Dunstan's College in 2009 and obtained her BA(Fine Arts) with distinction for her work with automotive paint on canvas in 2013 from the University of Pretoria.
Battson has most notably won the 2014 Absa L’Atelier competition, is a 2013 Sasol New Signatures Merit Award winner and a merit award recipient for painting in the 2012 Thami Mnyele Fine Arts competition.
Battson was a featured artist at the 2015, 2017 KKNK National Arts Festival (KKNK) and 2016 Clover Aardklop National Arts Festival. Battson featured as part of the Cool Capital initiative at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, has participated in numerous group exhibitions and is solely represented by Everard Read/CIRCA since 2016 where her debuted solo traveled from The Absa Gallery to CIRCA Cape Town.
Battson's artworks are in the Telkom, Sasol, Ellerman House, Absa, University of Pretoria, Nando’s Corporate collection (London), Imago Mundi Luciano Benetton collection (Italy) as well as numerous private collections. She participated in a two-month residency in Paris at the Cité Internationale des Arts (2013) awarded by the University of Pretoria and returned for an additional seven months as part of her Absa L’Atelier award in 2015. Battson curated a three-week residency at Mas de Gravieres, Provence, France 2019 awarded by the organization.
It is not easy being an artist. The idea of art as a career baffles many and yet, every day, millions of people visit museums, attend music concerts, pour over Instagram and consume art, unquestioningly. Fine art seems to be one of the hardest careers to justify, and abstract art has to be the toughest sell of them all.
Unfortunately, the unfathomable, esoteric quality of abstraction has always provoked and inspired Liberty Battson. Abstraction creates a gap between the viewer and the artist; the artist retreats behind the formalities of colour, texture and line and the viewer is left to decipher what they see. The experience of the viewer when looking at an abstract artwork could be a moment of complete enrapture, it could also be a moment of extreme infuriation. This is the space in which Liberty begins to play.
The arrogance of abstraction, that one can only “get it” if one is smart enough, or educated, is something that Liberty vociferously rallies against. Liberty’s works are easily decipherable, in fact, she has created an entire index of meaning, a dictionary of colours with which a viewer can decipher her striped paintings. Liberty has also used the codified nature of abstraction to hide flippant and acerbic commentary in her work, written in Morse code which can be deciphered using Google.
Liberty’s work pokes fun at the high-brow intellectualization of art, using its own language against itself by conforming to the Modernist principles of abstraction, colour, and non-traditional materials. Liberty’s earlier work relied on algorithms and data to dictate the overall composition of her artworks. Slowly she has shifted towards aesthetics, rebelling against her own systems and rules established over the years of her practice, asserting her creative freedom over the dictates of the data, and has finally arrived at a body of work in which there is no data at all. There is colour.
In letting go of the formal qualities that typified her practice, Liberty has created a body of work that is a pure expression of freedom. There is no code, there is no index, there is no caveat. There is colour and there is line and that is okay.
(Complements of Everard Read- Grace O’Malley)