August 21, 2016

The journey to Batik - introducing Joko Supriyono

This week I picked up my visa and it looks like my list of things to prepare is getting shorter. My time before leaving is also getting shorter fast and I feel there were so many more things I could have prepare, but I need to keep space in my plans (also the ones in my head) for change, the unexpected and what ever comes on my path. 
A way of working and thinking unknown here, but practiced in perfection where I'm going, so I guess it will work out fine.
For this post I'm happy to introduce a person I'm really really really looking forward to meet. He is married to one of the sweetest, coolest, dearest, most beautiful person I know and he is a talented painter and tattoo-artist. Looking forward sharing with him thoughts about how the artworld and tattoo-scene gets inspired by Batik and how he uses it in his own art. Also I hope to return with a freshly inked piece by him that will be part of my second 'Journey to Batik'. 
Without further ado, let me introduce: Joko Supriyono!

A photo posted by Jekektatto (@jekekyoungjava) on

When did you start making art and tattoos?

Started with tattooing when I was still in school. I was 15 when I made my first drawings on the chairs at my high school. I was already interested in the visual aspects of tattoo's before that, but my family situation made me become a tattoo-artist. 
My first exhibition as an artist was when I was 17 at the Gallery of University Purworjo. I studied art at the Akseri high school for Art and started with the ISI (Art Academy) in Yogyakarta. I couldn't finish it, because I had to take care of my family after both my parents died.

Painting by Joko Supriyono

What inspires you?

I started to paint and draw when I was a child. Figures are important in my work. For my tattoo's I always exploring deep into my mind. I use what I see there. In the world of painting I am not only thinking about freedom. I do like to put into my paintings everything I feel and do: my hiding, happiness, sadness, laughing, everything of life. What I see in myself, I use as an inspiration. It's like looking in the mirror, it makes me learn about myself, about honesty.
One thing I have in mind everyday are airplanes. They bring me lighter thoughts. (I love to Joko's favorite Batik motif is Megamengdun, clouds and airplanes, a perfect combination!)

Painting by Joko

Drawing by Joko

What is your favorite Batik pattern? Why do you wear Batik?

Batik Megamengdung from Cirebon. I like it very much, I'm a big fan of this art-work. For me the 'Megamendung' pattern is like a big cloud heavy above our heads. Since I was little this ornament was many time on my mind, because life in Indonesia can be hard and it made me think of the/my sweat of labor. 
Wearing Batik makes me happy! When I wear Batik it feels good in my brain I feel light. The composition, the lining brings structure. I like contemporary and classic Batik with a combination of colors; especially turquoise, red, black, brown, yellow and gold.

Batik Megamendung

Blouses with Batik Megamendung motif

Batik Megamengdung is next to the 'Parang' motif one of the most recognizable and maybe well-known Batik patterns of Java. When I first saw this pattern, I was really surprised that it was a classic motif. I saw a man at a Pasar Malam and ask him about his modern Batik blouse. He laughed and said it was a traditional pattern rom Cirebon. The big, bright coloured, abstract clouds covering the textile looked like nothing I seen before. 
Of course the cloud shape itself I seen many times, in many cultures and art forms. In Tibetan sand carpets, Mongolian cabinets, Chinese silk and porcelain.The motif is linked to Taoism and the Islamic Sufi in which clouds symbolize the ability to make a comprehensive picture of the world (a birds-eye view), be free and are transcendental.
Cirebon's port Muara Jati brought in many cultures and religions among which were also people from China. 
Believed is that the very modern looking pattern was introduced in the 16th century when Sunan Gunungjati (1448–1568) married Queen Ong Tien of China. Sunan Gunungjati, who spread the Islamic religion in the Cirebon region, founded the Sultanate of Banten, as well as the Sultanate of Cirebon. It is popular in Indonesia to link the origin of a pattern to royalty, so it is no surprise that it is the same with Batik Megamengdung. 
'Megamengdung' literally means mega cloudy. Big clouds filled with rain bring water for the crops and therefor symbolize fertility and the sprouting of life. 
A beautiful symbol that can be interpreted in many ways and I think, is very fitting for a city in which a harbor was so important. Like clouds from the sea bringing the wanted rain, ships brought goods, knowledge and inspiring cultures.

Drawing inspired by Batik by Joko Supriyono

Joko Supriyono with his work

Read & see more: 

More about Joko's tattoo's on Jekekyoungjava on Instagram

More about Batik Megamendung on Wikipedia and on

More about my second 'Journey to Batik' in the previous posts 'Buy a Batik', 'Rasa Nembah', 'The journey to Batik', 'The journey to Batik - Introducing Krisna Murti' and 'The journey to Batik - Introducing Batik Fractal'

August 9, 2016

The journey to Batik - Introducing Batik Fractal

Batik Abimanyu, Pilang Village on Java*
Batiks made for Batik Fractal 

In a few weeks I will be back on Java enjoying the Indonesian culture and exploring the Batik world. With the question "How does Batik inspires and how do you preserve the Art of Batik?", I will travel around meeting different artists, Batik makers, entrepreneurs, researchers and of course Batik wearers. I try to capture the Batik world as it is practiced today and see how this art-form will continue, evolve and is kept alive by different people in all sorts of ways. One of the people I will meet during my second 'Journey to Batik' is Muhamad Lukman, Chief Design Officer of Batik Fractal. So a post to introduce Lukman and his Batik Fractal.

Willow blouse, Batik Fractal pattern made with cap. When I wear this blouse, people think it is African textile. Funny when I explain it is Modern Batik from Java, such surprised faces

Nancy Margried, front-woman of Batik Fractal, send in the third published Batik Statement for my blog, so I have been following Batik Fractal for some years now. Batik Fractal is a company that uses computer software to make Batik designs. This interesting combination of something so handmade and analog with something so modern and digital, made me fascinated from the beginning. 

When I was on Java in 2009, I discovered that the Batik designers were the ones in charge at most Batik workshops. The Batik makers were just following the patterns drawn on the cloth, which made them just workers and not creators. The money made by selling the Batiks went for the biggest part to the designers, while the makers were paid, if lucky by the hour, or per finished cloth. In the the end who didn't make the Batiks get paid the best. 
A lot like the Art world where who shows it earns, who makes it doesn't. The Batik designers didn't spend hours applying the wax with care and dedication to the cloth, they only executed the fun part. Only a few places I visited had Batik makers that were also the designers. On these locations you could see that the Batiks were being made with more joy. The makers were proud of their product and I know this as an artist myself, working as just a worker or creating your own thing is a huge difference.
Because not everyone is gifted with the ability to draw a design, the software Batik Fractal offers, a solution. It allows everyone to create a design. This makes makers stronger on the Batik market and more independent. 

Batik Fractal also promotes handmade Batik Tulis. At first their designs were mostly made using Batik Cap. I think partly because it is easier to create a repeating pattern. They make from these Batik fabrics useful and fashionable items like blouses, laptop sleeves and business-card holders. Some of these products are made with left-overs from the industrie, so re-use is also a part of Batik Fractal.
I ordered some clothing a year and a half ago. I was very happy with the Willow blouse, but very disappointed in the blouse I ordered for my love. The sleeves and collar were the only parts where Batik fabric was used, and it was printed!! A company that supports & wants to secure the future of Batik should stay away from printed fabrics with Batik motifs!
However shortly after that, Batik Fractal begin experimenting with natural dyes and made a line of products like scarfs with these natural dyed Batiks. Now they are busy with a new project #MADEWITHJBATIK in which Batik Tulis is being made using their jBatik software. So a good time to visit this inspiring company! 

Infinity Batik hanging to dry at Batik Kalinggo **

Infinity Batik with wax still on the cloth at Batik Kalinggo **

In the last months, I have been sharing thoughts back and forth with Muhamad Lukman, Chief Design Officer of Batik Fractal. I'm looking forward meeting him and learning more about the Batik Fractal software. But until then, a little interview:

Why is Batik important for you? 
And how do you see the future of Batik, the future of the technique Batik Tulis and the philosophy; the language of the cloth, the meaning of the patterns/motifs and colours?

I think the importance of Batik lies in several aspect: in Heritage, Art, Economy and in a Scientific/ Technology aspect.
I believe that in the future Batik will have its own voice in the world. Nowadays you can see Batik on several catwalks, but this is not enough for me. In my opinion the world only sees parts and pieces of Batik. They see it as a nice textile, or just as a tradition. I see a future where people will recognize Batik instantly and will have a connection with the tradition.

I think in the future people will recognize Batik in a more complete way. How it touches the tradition & economy, how the patterns are made, how we see it in science and technology.
Because the process  is so laborious, I would like people to know more, be interested, acknowledge this process and value it more.
For myself, I would like Batik to be promoted more prominently by our government. The future younger generations are getting interested in making Bati and want to be part of this. We need a thrive in economic aspect.
I also see a more sustainable future for Batik. In both economics as in waste management there is much to be improved.
I also see a future where technology could support us in terms of designing and preserving Batik.

Is Batik Fractal focussed on a specific Batik motif right now for a new collection or project? 

Batik Fractal is not focusing on specific motif right now. However, we have collected several Batik patterns that are part of the jBatik library. jBatik is desktop application that uses parametric systems to generate various batik patterns or any other patterns. The classical patterns form the base for us to develop various new patterns.
jBatik uses fractal theory, a branch of mathematic that deals with iterations, to create patterns.
Users can draw traditional Batik patterns and then create various new patterns by changing its parameters.
jBatik is being used to empower over a thousand traditional batik artisans in Indonesia. They can create various new patterns from their traditional ones.

#madewithjbatik is a special section (on our website) where we put the independently designed and produced batik fabrics by the batik artisans all across the country. These artisans are using jBatik Software to design the Batik and they produced it traditionally with handmade process (canting and stamp). With #madewithjbatik section, we provide them an online platform to display and commercialize their products through our website. These featured artisans have successfully utilizing technology on their traditional art.***

Working with jBatik

Training in jBatik

Do you consider what Batik Fractal is doing as Art or more as development? 

For us, it is both. Batik Fractal is the next step of development in Batik making. Using technology to create new designs and storing them. It is also an art, since this new way of thinking, using technology to generate patterns, can create a distinct new way of creating Batiks.
Our aim is to be sustainable and fair with our artisan friends. We give transparent pricing for the collaboration and we explain to our costumer about our vendors and partners for Batik Fractal.
We are also working in collaboration with institutions such as schools and universities for jBatik trainings. And of course we are still designing our products.

What is your favorite Batik design?

For Batik design, I guess every traditional Batik designs is my favorite. It gives inspiration and can generate various new patterns.

Muhamad Lukman wearing Batik, made with jBatik from Batik artisans from Batik Kalinggo

* More about Batik Abimanyu on
** More about Batik Kalinggo on
*** Visit for all #madewithjbatik products

August 3, 2016

Iconic Ironic Batik Statement

Just returned from a great work-week in Brighton (UK) and now back to preparing for my journey to Batik. I'm excited and afraid all at once. Looking forward seeing & meeting all the wonderful people there and being surrounded by beautiful Batiks. Here I surround myself too with beautiful Batiks and with wonderful people, who I'm going to miss a lot when I'm traveling on Java. 
My unofficial mother-in-law surprised me a month ago with this Batik Statement. She had the fabric for some years already and inspired by me :), she decided to make a cover for her iron board from it. This lovely statement was captured by Koen de Wit

July 18, 2016

Journey to Batik-tutorial: Statement Shirt

To start making your own 'Statement shirt' there are a few things you need:

- First: Only make positive statement shirts; if you have shit to share, don't share it!
- A shirt (preferable white) or cloth from linnen or cotton
- a nice piece of fabric that fits with what you want to express. I used a piece of Wax print for this shirt
- a piece of Fusible Interfacing ("Vlieseline, Vliesoflix"), the one that sticks when you iron it
- an iron
- vinegar or salt
- flowers or vegetables from your garden
-  a big pan(s) and a colander 
- sewing machine, fabric scissors, pins, thread

The Shirt

For this 'Statement shirt' I started from scratch. I wanted it to take time and, more importantly, effort to make it. If you want to make a statement, you have to work for it!
I used an old bed linen to copy one of my favorite shirts. The design of the shirt is quite easy, just a T-shape for the front and back. I left the length of the shirt a bit longer then the original so I could make it fit nicely at the end.
You can also use a shirt (or linnen bag). It can already be a colored one too. I did the same with two 'Statement shirts' I made last year, see here and here.

The Colour 

Before you can dye your fabric, you need to boil it in water with one cup of vinegar for an hour. You can also use salt. The vinegar and salt make the colour sticks to your fabric. After an hour rinse the fabric with cold water and let it drip out a bit.
To make the natural dye you can use many different things. Search online and you find endless possibilities. Because I didn't really prepare for making natural dye, I just choose to use a flower that was well represented in my garden and so far cultivated that it is pretty, but useless for insects. The pink flowers of my Hortensia. I cooked the flowers for an hour into enough water so I could soak the fabric in it. You can let the cooked flowers soak overnight, but I decided to use the dye straight away.
I'm no expert on natural dye, this is my first attempt, so use online information to do it right.

The Tie-Dye

When your natural dye is finished you can put your still wet fabric into it. You can make it an even dye, but you can also play with knotting so bits stay white or a lighter shade. Look up Shibori from Japan, Mudmee from Thailand or Tie-dye from Ghana.
It is nice the experiment with knotting and you can follow workshops almost everywhere to explore the different ways of decorating natural dyed fabrics. I made (too) quick tie-dye knots in the fabric before putting them in the dye.
I left the fabric in overnight and the next morning I ironed the fabric dry. Use a towel between the fabric and the ironboard and a towel between the fabric and the iron. The ironing fixates the colour.

The Statement

A little reminder: Only make positive 'Statement shirts'; if you have shit to share, don't share it!
To know how big the statement can be on your shirt, you need to measure where you want it. You don't want it to high or to low. The statement needs to be on the shirt between your nipples and shoulders. Measure the maximum space you have on the shirt or bag.
I print the letters, but you can also write the letters on a piece of paper. With the paper letters you can check if your statement is going to fit on your shirt.
Choose a piece of fabric that is big enough to cut all the letters out. You can of course also use different pieces of fabric. Choose a fabric that is thick and not to stretchy.
Iron the 'Fusible Interfacing' on the back side of the fabric. 
I first cut out the letters till a little edge is left. I pin these to the fabric and cut them out with fabric scissors. Place the letters on the shirt and pin them on the right spot. It is a good idea to try the shirt before ironing the letters on the fabric. 
When the letters are on the right spot, iron them on the shirt.

The Sewing

If you work with an already finished shirt you can start with sewing the letters onto the fabric. Of course they already stick to the fabric after the ironing, but it will secure the letters & gives it a nice effect. Choose for your thread a contrasting colour, neon or glitter can be nice too, or a colour that is in the fabric, but subtile. I used neon and light green, because the color is in the Wax print and it contrasts nicely with the lilac of the fabric. Now zigzag around the letters. Make sure the thread goes around the edges of the letters. 
If you make a shirt yourself, it is easier to first sew the letters into place, before putting the shirt together. After I sew the letters, I lined the neckline and sleeves. I pinned the shirt together and sew around the edges. I first tried the shirt before lining the bottom of the shirt.

Congrats, your Statement shirt is finished!


I started making this shirt to express how I feel. I want to express my worries about everything that is going on. The killing of humans and the killing of our planet.
In the three days it took me to make this shirt even more terrible things happend and I can't believe this is the reality. This is what we are doing on this beautiful planet.
My thoughts go out to everyone who is suffering from violence, both mentally and physically.
I hope by sharing this tutorial, more people feel the freedom to share their thoughts and dare to wear this statement with me: Stop Killing!

July 11, 2016

Buy a Batik

Taking a break from scraping off wax from the Batiks
Yogyakarta, 2009

Young girl learns the art of Batik from her mother
Jeruk, 2009

Batik brand labels 
Solo, 2009

Batik hanging to dry
Yogyakarta, 2009

These are titles of recent news articles. Strong titles that can be read as cries for help from the Batik industry towards the government and also towards buyers. The problem the Batik industry has, is the same they had in 2009: Printed Batiks flooding the market while Batik Tulis is not being sold. The solution was to make Batik the officially UNESCO heritage of Indonesia, but this solution turns out not to be the right answer. Or not yet, because how can a heritage exist if their is, as it seems, no need for the product. Or is it not that they don't want the product, but just can't buy the right product?
The problem, about which I wrote about several times on this blog*, may lead to the demise of the Batik industry. And with a technique like Batik Tulis, when the knowledge is lost, it may be lost for ever.
A serious cry for help and I hope it will be heard.

My upcoming project, The second journey to Batik, is actually inspired by this problem. Batik as a technique has been under pressure for a long time, but I noticed that in the Indonesian culture & Art it is very alive. The philosophy of Batik as I call it, the language of the patterns, is used in many Art forms from painting to tattoo’s, in dance and fashion. But can Batik exist without the actual Batik Tulis, the handwritten cloths that inspired all of these cultural things on Java. It is something I'm trying to figure out this year during my three month stay on Java.
I will visit many artists, fashion-designers, museums, experts and of course Batik makers. I hope to answer: Why is Batik so inspiring and how can we use this inspiration to make sure the making of Batik Tulis will exist for many more generations to come?
In the article 'Ignorance may lead to the demise of industry' the suggestion is being made to educate people so they can buy actual Batik Tulis and not printed Batik. I think this is a very good idea, but how to do it?
As I wrote in a previous blogpost before, I got my heart broken earlier when I received as a gift a printed Batik. My heart also broke when I ordered a blouse from a brand I love, who claimed to support real Batik, that turned out to be made with printed Batik. Ignorance is in this case is as dangerous as deliberately. And without sending blame, I hope together with other real Batik lovers we can secure te future of Batik and try to find ways to bring the buyer back to the product!

In this video about the Museum Batik in Yogyakarta (with English subtitles) at 9 minutes a short and nice explanation by the museum director about how to recognize a real Batik.
So how can you recognize a Batik Tulis from a printed Batik, or better said Tekstil Motif Batik, a textile with a Batik pattern/motive. Forget her first tip about if you buy the expensive Batik, you buy a real batik, because price can be misleading. It is an important thing to realize, because I meet a lot of people in the Netherlands wearing printed, or better said fake Batik, telling me it is too expensive to wear actual Batik. From my own experience this is just not true. It is a point of view and it really depends on what you classify as "too expensive". You have to realize what it means if you buy printed Batik.
Here is a little exercise so you can decide what you are willing or able to pay for an actual handmade fabric. Just visit your local textile market and buy one meter of a printed textile. You can then easily decide for yourself what you would pay if that same meter wasn't made by a machine. What would you pay for that fabric if it was woven, coloured, painted, embroidered, stamped or batikked by hand?
Her second tip, the 'Look-alike' tip means: see if the pattern repeats perfectly. It is a good tip and easy trick. Just fold the fabric so two parts of the same pattern are next to each other. If the pattern is the same, "sama", it is a printed Batik and not handmade.

One thing that help the Batik industry is for sure to just buy a Batik.
Because it is difficult to get your hands on a real Batik Tulis in the Netherlands, I can buy one for you during my journey!
Let me know for what amount you would like to buy a Batik (staring price from 50 euro). You can let me know if you would like to have a Batik from a specific region or city, or if you want it in your favorite colour or with animals, insects or plants you like on it. I can also help with selecting the right Batik for you. Contact me for more information at sabine{@}
Hope to buy a Batik for you!

To read more on how to recognize a real Batik read my previous blogpost 'The real deal' & 'Batik: Pattern vs. Technique'

P.S. I want to apologize if this cry for help is maybe not appropriate with everything that is going on in the world today. I believe if we support heritage, culture and love, we will become more united. We will learn to appreciate life more and we will be more understanding towards each other. Learning about Batik, taught me a great deal about my Dutch heritage and specifically a heritage people don't like to talk about. I hope by sharing the positive, I can create room to acknowledge the negative when it comes to our (Dutch) history and also our present blind spot when it comes to "our world view".
I also promise to buy real handmate wooden shoes.

June 18, 2016

Rasa Nembah

For my upcoming project, my second 'Journey to Batik', I'm exploring how Batik inspires local artists on Java by asking them to make a local motif in their own style and technique. 
In some regions the traditional pattern is still very clearly found in the Batiks being made. Like the 'Megamendung' from Cirebon. When you spot these abstract clouds on a Batik you can surely say its made in Cirebon. But there are also, maybe most of patterns used today in Batik that changed in location, meaning or evolved into a new pattern. 
One popular motif that is well known outside of Indonesia is the 'Parang' motif. A 'Parang' is a type of knife and the motif is also known as the broken knife pattern. If people here (in the Netherlands) see a 'Parang' motif they will say "That is real Batik!". Even if it is clearly printed. 
The brown and white patterns that is repeated diagonal on the cloths is for most a pattern they would like to wear or at least own a cloth with it. But the thing is with the 'Parang' motif that it use to be exclusive for royalty. The royalty in Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo) had a motif that was only intended for them. In a still closed section of the Kraton (the Sultan Palace) in Yogyakarta you can see these Batiks for the royal family, but it is forbidden to take pictures. 
Later the 'Parang' motif was used by other families to show their wealth an high born status. Different families got there own 'Parang' motifs and today at weddings the families will still wear their owns motif. Everyone will wear the same pattern and its nice if you see pictures of the families standing next to the wedding couple forming almost one repeating pattern together. 
Batik fashion hero Iwan Tirta introduced 'Parang' in the nineties as high fashion. He made dresses and shirts with the motif enlarged on it or mixed between bright flower patterns. Beautiful pieces about which the marketing people writes today: "'Lereng' symbolizes fertility, the desire for prosperity, determination, to have courage to do what is important to both the nation and the people." 
Who doesn't want to get all that from a dress!

At the kraton in Yogyakarta

The motif this post is about is a well known pattern on all of Java. But what the origin of pattern is, is not so clear. 'Kawung' is a Batik motif made mostly in the colours brown, black and white. The patterns is a repetition of oval shaped circles. It is a simplistic pattern, nowadays made with cap, which makes it a very fast pattern as well. If you look closely you can read the pattern in two ways, one of four oval shaped forming a one whole or one circle with a diamond shape in its center. 
It is thought to be a royal motif too. At the kraton in Yogyakarta there is a picture of a woman wearing a sarong with 'Kawung'. The motif is also linked to the Sultanate of Mataram, it was the last major independent Javanese kingdom before the island was colonised by the Dutch. Yet 'Kawung' i found on temples from the 13th century on Java. So it much be older. 
When I travelled on Java in 2009 I would ask at ever Batik shop: What pattern is typical for here? And without doubt they would pull out the 'Kawung' pattern. I don't know if it is because they thought it is typical for their city or that it merely the most popular motif. But it surprised me and made me wonder about this pattern. 
'Kawung' was being made everywhere I went. I spotted it in Yogyakarta, Solo, Pekalongan and Semarang. It was used traditionally as one pattern covering the cloth or to fill up parts in the design. 

in Pekalongan

In Yogyakarta, Kawung made with cap

In Semarang

The 'Kawung' motif symbolizes four abilities one must possess to be a good person. They are represented both in the motif and in the use of colour. The colours stand for character traits, but also for the wind directions. Like a moral compass. The shape that is repeated is also like a compass, a wind rose even, and it would explain why I'm fond of this pattern. 
Putih, the colour black or blue is the North. It stands for tranquility, peace, firmness and also for being bold.
Hitam, the colour white is the East where the Sunsets. Its a new beginning and stands for purity and honesty.
Merah, the colour red or brown is the South. It stands for strength and also anger. 
Kuning, the colour yellow, is the West. The full circle is made, grace and knowledge are on your side.

This four points of the 'Kawung' pattern explain that you live your life meaningful and even tells you, you are the perfect man. Even a god. It is thought to be a pattern of the times that sultans were representatives of the gods and therefor were gods themselves. 
But it is not necessary a motif for demigods. It can just represent the way you have to live. Also the making of the motif could have been part of reaching for the devine. When this pattern was first being made on a cloth, it wasn't made with cap but with canting. If you have to repeat the same pattern over and over, you will go through the different stages as mentioned in the description of the colours. The four abilities or character traits. You will have to stay focussed, have to make it neatly. You have to be patient, but you will get overwhelmed, maybe even exhausted or angry. But as you get closer to reaching the end you will enjoy this victory, calm and with a little smile. And the final cloth will be proof you possess all four. 

In Pekalongan, Batik with 'Kawung' together with 'Parang'

Also in Yogyakarta

But how did they come up with the 'Kawung'? For this question are also many answers. First there is the name 'Kawung'. It could have been taken from 'Kwangwung'. A 'Kwangwung' is a Rhinoceros beetle. This kind has a black head with the typical rhino-horn on it and a nice shiny brown body that is oval shaped. They are very popular on many places in Asia and used for gambling fights. Since the male Rhinoceros beetles naturally have the tendency to fight each other for the attention of females, they are the ones used for battle. But is this angry, little, fighting beetle the base for the 'Kawung' motif?
Another one is that the ovals are abstract leaves of the Lotus or the scale of a fish, but in my opinion that is just to easy.
The one I really like is the fruit of the Sugar Palm, or Enau, or Arenga pinnata. If you split open the 'buah kolang-kaling' it will show the white sweet soft fruits, protected by a yellow skin and surrounded by a brown bark. How it is shaped is very close to the 'Kawung motif' and would give also a nice extra explanation of its meaning.
The sweet core is hidden by a thick, hard layer. Showing sweetness, friendliness comes after the tough, strict approach. Or you have to go through the bad before reaching the good. Also the whole Sugar Palm is useful and the fruits gives fortune. So not a bad fruit to put on your cloths.

Clockwise: Shibori workshop in Rotterdam (photo from Facebook), Sashiko on Google, Tiles at Mariaplaats in Utrecht (NL),  Stained-glass-window at Castle de Haar designed by Pierre Cuypers, African Kaftan at TropenMuseum in Amsterdam (NL), fruit of a Sugar Palm

But there is more to 'Kawung'.
This motif is not only a motif in Batik, but in many different art forms. It is not called 'Kawung', yet the pattern is the same. I started spotting 'Kawung' in African and Japanese cloths, in tiles and even in bricks walls. I realized that the motif is maybe not designed, but maybe just a logical result of technique. And properly not the canting technique of Batik. I realized this when I saw a picture of a Shibori workshop. The cloth was put folded and bound into an Indigo dye. When it was unfolded a perfect 'Kawung' pattern in Indigo was visible on the cloth.
There is a logic in the pattern that makes it easy to get invented. It happens by placing bricks or tiles in a certain way. It happens when a suface is divided in a certain way and it happens when a cloth is folded in a certain way. Patterns are based on natural phenomena and natural phenomena form the base of ever pattern. So another nice one for the Pattern vs. Technique debate and a quest for answers during my stay on Java. later this year.

If you have a nice theory to add about 'Kawung', please feel free to share it in a comment below this post!

Read more:

- 'Indonesian Batik Motif - Kawung Motif' on
- 'Batik Kawung' on (in Bahasa Indonesia)
- Previous blogpost 'Water lilies & table linenon De reis naar Batik in which the lotus, or Water Lily is drawn as a 'Kawung'-like pattern

* 'Lereng Parang Kupu Teksing' by Iwan Tirta on
** all photos of 'Batik Kawung' are made by my during my first 'Journey to Batik' in 2009

May 27, 2016

The journey to Batik - Introducing Krisna Murti

Video still 'Paradise Under Construction'. Video by Krisna Murti. Dance by Gita Kinathi

Photo of video installation 'Wayang Machine' by Krisna Murti  

For my upcoming project ''The journey to Batik' I'm very fortunate to collaborate with inspiring artists, who I met in 2009 during my first journey to Batik and who I haven't met in person yet, but who help me a great deal during my stay there. One of these artists is Krisna Murti.
I was in contact with him before I travelled to Java the first time and with his guidance and great help he made my journey a very great one. When I arrived in Yogyakarta I felt kind of lost. I knew what I wanted to do and see, real Batik Tulis, but how to do it was still a mystery. It was my first journey alone and I was under the impression that I maybe wasn't able to do this alone. I contacted Krisna about my troubles. He was at that time in the Netherlands preparing for the exhibition 'Beyond the Dutch' so he could visit me, but I introduced me to Denny Antyo, a student of his at the Art Academy and great guide for Yogyakarta. We kept in contact during my travels and later followed each others work on Facebook.
When I started to think about how I can make a follow up of my first journey to Batik, I realized that a really would love to collaborate with the artists I met. I wanted to combine to Art of Batik with the Modern Art being made on Java, which for me already are really connected.
One morning I woke up with these moving images in my head and I knew what I was going to do.
'The journey to Batik'-project is a live dance performance with a video-background and a video-work. Batik as a technique has been under pressure for a long time, but I noticed that in the Indonesian culture & art it is very alive. The philosophy of Batik as I call it, the language of the patterns, is used in many Art forms from painting to tattoo’s, in dance and fashion. The journey, the video, will show how the patterns of Batik are being used & created by different creatives on Java in different ways. The video will serve as background for the dancer.
When I got the idea, I first contacted Krisna Murti. His video-works are absolutely great and his experience is very welcome to realize my dream.

Dear Krisna Murti, who are you? And what do you make as an artist?

I am video artist. I use video as my media for my artistic expression.

If you think about Batik, what is the first thing you think about?

Batik is an art process: painting, dyeing and the symbolic meaning & purpose to wear and use Batik for various activities.

Paksi Naga Liman Batik Motif from Cirebon

Do you have a favorite Batik pattern or motif? 

Yes, my favorite pattern is from Cirebon. It is called "Paksi Naga Liman". In this Batik motif 'Paksi Naga Liman' a combination of animals is shown. A Paksi or Garuda  (eagle), an Dragon or Lion and a Liman (elephant). Paksi Naga Liman symbolizes Royal power and represents the air, Paksi, the sea, Naga and the land, Liman.

Photo of video installation 'Wayang Machine' by Krisna Murti  

Photo by Krisna Murti

Do you wear Batik? And if yes, when do you wear it?

Yes of course I wear Batik. I have a collection. I always wear a Batik shirt to important events like a wedding.

What is the most beautiful place on Java for you? And why?

I like Yogyakarta city. The city had a nice combining of modern and traditional culture. (Krisna teaches at the Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta)

And last, do you maybe have a picture of you wearing Batik?

See photo above of Krisna Murti in a Javanese dance costume 'Pergiwati' on a cover

More about Krisna Murti:
- Article "Video (e)scape into a dream"
- His work is now on display during ART|JOG|9 from 27th May till 27 June 2016 in Yogyakarta and at the National Gallery in Jakarta