Batik Lecture, UCSC Guest Lecturer:: History of Art and Visual Culture: Textiles of the Pacific May 2, 2007

Brief Textiles Background on no.e:

Overview of Batik in Java: A Hand Made Tradition

Map of Java,

'Batik'-- to make small dots in Javanese language.

Basic Tools/Materials for Batiking
  • kain putih (white cotton fabric)
  • canting/tjanting
  • batik wax (a mixture of beeswax, pine, and parafin)
  • wax heating unit, usually fueled with minyak tanah (kerosene).

Originally, the art of batik was practiced by women of the Javanese court.

Traditionally, batik has focused on no more than three colors, indigo, soga brown and mengkudu red. An essential part of Javanese philosophy is a striving towards harmony; in batik, it can be seen in this use of harmonious color.

The very act of creating batik has strong symbolic meaning for the Javanese. According to the Indonesian tradition, each time the batik artisan executes a particular intricate pattern, the design is not only fixed to the cloth, but the meaning of the design is engraved ever more deeply in the soul of the artisan.

"In the Kraton, or Javanese court, batik was one of the six priyayi, "high arts" studied by the cultured Javanese gentry.

Batik, along with music and dance, was considered to be a way to develop spiritual discipline"(1).

Symbology of Javanese Court Batik:: Examples from Central Java and Cirebon

Central Java

  • Batik Garis Miring (Diagonal Lines): Parang Rusak (broken knife) and its Derivatives

Center, "Javaanse danseres in hofkleding" Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam.

Left, Keraton Guard, Yogyakarta.


Batiking and wearing batik eventually became more common outside the palace walls, as more people began pracitcing it in their homes, using the motifs developed in the palatial courts.

Left, a lovely old woman wears traditional Javanese attire, while carrying a basket in the streets of Surakarta, Central Java.

It is typical for many people from older generations to continue to wear batik daily, as well as individuals still working in the royal palaces. However, younger people tend to save wearing batik for more formal occaisions.

Right, a contrast between the guard at Yogyakarta's royal palace and a young visitor.

Today batik is worn by members of the general public for weddings, and other important life ceremonies.

Another couple performing a wedding ritual.

A couple in their wedding attire.

Link toJoglosemar for complete information on Javanese weddings.

The Batik Industry

Small cottage industries formed with the rise in popularity of batik in Java. Many of these cottage industries eventually grew to serve Pan-Indonesian and international audiences.

Women making Batik Tulis (hand-drawn batik)

Batik Tjap

As a result, a broad range of colors and motifs were made available.

The heavy copper batik tjap work is generally done by men in the batik factory.

I have also seen a rubber/possibly silicon stamp being used in a batik workshop in Bali.

How differentiate batik (i.e., real/fake, tuils (hand made)/tjap (stamped): Tell tale signs

In Class Demonstration:

Batik as Contemporary Art::

Today batik enjoys the status of an international art form.

Featured artists for this discussion: Amri Yahya, Isnia, Linda Kaun, and no.e Sunflowrfish

Subject matter, tools, and methods have all expanded in many directions:

Amri Yahya (1939-2004)

Amri was one of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionist Batik Painting in the 1970s, frequently incorporating Arabic calligraphy into his work shown at Amri Gallery in Yogyakarta, Java.

Left; Amri's distinctive batik style

Title: Unknown.

Right; Amri was famous for his use of Arabic calligraphy.

Title: "Beautiful"

Can you notice the difference in stroke between these examples of Amri's and the batik tulis shown earlier?

Linda Kaun an American batik artist in Yogyakarta, Java.

She has been living and working there since the 1980s.

Title: "Girl at the Red Door"

Linda works extensively in a photo-realistic style, taking her influences from her local surroundings. Her subject matter is taken directly from photographs she takes.

Linda combines the use of tjanting and paint brushes to achieve her amazingly realistic batiks.

no.e sunflowrfish

Titles from Left:

"Head Throat Heart" "Who Are You? Who Am I?" "Star Animal"

Isnia, the batik design team of Nia Fliam and Agus Ismoyo: Cross-cultural Batik Visions

Brahma Tirta Sari Batik (1985-Present) Yogyakarta, Java.

‘creativity is the source of all knowledge’

Ismoyo and Fliam were the first artists in Indonesia to extensively explore the medium of Javanese batik as contemporary textile art outside the boundaries of modern lukisan batik (batik painting).

A Kawung tjap is used in the textile designs to the left.

Here use of a Parang tjap is integrated in the textile's design.

Since 1988 the artists have conducted numerous workshops in Indonesia and Australia with Aboriginal batik artists.

In 1994 they began an intensive collaboration with Aboriginal women artists from the central Australian desert community of Utopia.
During a two-year period they produced 20 large batik wall hangings that have become part of the permanent collections of museums, galleries and private collections in Australia, Europe and the U.S.

Women working at their camp near Arlparra.

The women of this art collective have recieved critical acclaim for their textile work, as well as their work in other media.

Isnia "have received critical acclaim for their successful use of traditional textile techniques in exploring their own realm of creativity while pursuing an understanding of the value, role and meaning of tradition in the development of our world culture," according to Christine Cocca, Antenna Projects, Yogyakarta Indonesia.

Isnia References
http://www.brahmatirtasari.org , http://www.aboriginalartonline.com/regions/utopia-2.php , http://www.theislandgallery.net/isnia.php

Back to no.e's Main Page

Page Details
Contact DANM  |  Digital Arts and New Media  |  Arts Division  |  Grad Division