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January 7, 2011 > The Beauty of Batik

The Beauty of Batik

By Lucinda Bender

Explore "The Beauty of Batik" at Olive Hyde's first offering for the New Year. This exhibit features dozens of batiks created by two local artists, Diane Burns and John Tinger.

The art of batik has a rich history. Although experts disagree as to the precise origins, samples of dye resistance patterns on cloth can be traced back 1,500 years ago to Egypt and the Middle East. Most scholars believe that intricate Javanese batik designs would only have been possible after the importation of finely woven cloth first imported to Indonesia from India in 1815.

Some experts feel that batik was originally reserved as an art form for Javanese royalty as certain patterns were worn only by royalty from the Sultan's palace. Other experts disagree; it was an important part of a young ladies accomplishment that she be skillful in applying wax to the cloth, just as important as cooking and other housewifery skills to Central Javanese women.

Although batik art is very intricate, the tools used are simple. Natural materials such as cotton or silk are used so wax is absorbed when applied. The canting tool, believed to be a Javanese invention, is a copper container filled with melted wax that the artist uses to draw a design on the cloth. Common waxes used for batik consist of a mixture of beeswax for its malleability and paraffin for its friability. The wax is kept at a proper temperature to ensure an even flow.

Creating batik is a time consuming art. To meet growing demand and make the fabric more affordable, a copper stamp called a cap (pronounced "chop") was developed in the mid-19th century. The cap is dipped into wax and applied to fabric.

To create batik, a design is drawn onto the cloth and wax is applied to the areas of the design that the artist wants to remain the original color of the cloth. After wax is applied, the fabric is immersed in a dye bath and subsequently in cold water to harden the wax. The number of colors in batik represents how many times it was immersed in the dye bath and how many times wax had to be applied and removed.

Although there are thousands of different batik designs, specific designs have traditionally been associated with festivals and religious ceremonies. Certain designs are reserved for brides and bridegrooms as well as their families. Other designs are reserved for royalty such as the Sultan and his family or their attendants. A person's rank could be determined by the pattern of the batik he/she wore.

Modern batik, although having strong ties to traditional batik, utilizes linear treatment of leaves, flowers and birds. These batiks tend to be more dependent on the dictates of the designer rather than the stiff guidelines that have guided traditional craftsmen. Artisans are no longer dependent on traditional dyes; chemical dyes can produce many additional colors however, modern batik still utilizes canting and cap.

Fine quality handmade batik is very expensive and the production of such work of art is limited. However, in a world dominated by machines there is an increasing interest in materials that have been handmade such as batik.

Burns was introduced to batik in high school and found the medium to be fascinating; she has practiced the art form for the past 30 years, determined to master it. She has taken batik beyond the simple application of wax on cloth then dipping into a dye bath to achieve interesting patterns and color combinations. For Burns, this very challenging medium has become her means of painting. Just as another artist would use watercolor, oils or acrylics, Burns uses melted wax and colored dyes to create images.

Tinger appreciates batik for its random results - the mixture of waxes, dyes, and fabric texture creates endless combinations, effects that are only revealed at the final step of the process. He uses vibrant colors and simple shapes to produce complex designs. In his latest work, Tinger has begun to bring his engineering background to the forefront. Mixed media creates three-dimensional structural and truss components to layer over the batik.

For more information about these outstanding artists, please visit their websites at www.dbbatik.com and www.batikfineart.com .

The Beauty of Batik
January 7 - February 5
Gallery Hours:
Thursday - Sunday
12 noon - 5 p.m.

Opening Reception
Friday, January 7
7 p.m.-9 p.m.

Olive Hyde Art Gallery
123Washington Boulevard, Fremont
(510) 791-4357
www.fremont.gov/Art/OliveHydeArtGallery

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