June 23, 2013

Shared Heritage

Exhibition 'Sporen van Smaragd' on the 55th Tong Tong Fair

On Friday the 31th of May I went to the symposium 'Shared Heritage' by Sporen van Smaragd ("Traces of Emerald") on the Tong Tong Fair in Den Haag. An interesting day with great lectures, a good conclusion of a very successful project. Many great architectural finds were made during the three years of research. Not only the charismatic bricks and stained glass has been mapped out, also the inhabitants and the clients. It's an important part of our cultural heritage in which emigrants from the Dutch East Indies left their traces of emerald not only in buildings, but also in literature, art, music and the cuisine of the Netherlands.
Frans Leidelmeijer with Louis Couperus's 'De Stille Kracht' with a batiked cover
Example of Batik being made in the Netherlands
'Raden Adjeng' by Paul Citroen

Frans Leidelmeijer gave an interesting lecture about Dutch East Indies influence on the Dutch art scene. Great examples are found in the Dutch version of the Arts and Crafst-movement, De Nieuwe Kunst. Batik was a popular craft and was used in many different ways by artists in the Netherlands. Leijermeijer's lecture contained many interesting artworks, but his story was a bit chaotic and he mentioned a lot of names and dates, but only once. Fortunatly the great publication by Sporen van Smaragd also gives attention to this subject in both text and image.
Leidemeijer's lecture ended with a very nice surprise, the wonderful painting 'Raden Adjeng' by Paul Citroen. The ultimate Batik Statement!
I first saw this painting in a museum in Gorinchem. I didn't like the exhibition much and so I didn't mind not being allowed to take pictures. But then in the last room, there it was. This big colourful painting with a beautiful Javanese lady surrounded by Batiks and Ikats. I thought of making a picture anyway, but most paintings were from private collections. Back in Breda I googled for an image of the painting without any luck. Then there it was, more then a year later, projected at the Tong Tong Fair.

Correction: The painting of Raden Ajoe is not by Paul Citroen but by a pupil of him at the Haagse Kunstacademie. Corry Muhlenfeld. See the comment on this post by Frans Leidelmeijer himself.
Dr. Marty Bax with Batik examples

In the lecture by Dr. Marty Bax the hidden Indonesian influence in architecture in Den Haag was unravelled. The Amsterdam School is a style of architecture that arose from 1910 through about 1930 in The Netherlands. With the economic prosperity in the Netherlands, due to the colonies, art developed rapidly. Architects could design entire buildings including the interiors. It were the heydays for architects like H.P. Berlage and K.P.C. de Bazel. Marty Bax made some nice comparisons between buildings made in the style of the Amsterdamse school and Buddhist temples. De Lijn, the line, formed the basis for their architecture. The flow through the building had to be like a meandering line, like life energy, Chi. Gemeentemuseum De Haag by H.P. Berlage makes this very visible, wondering through the halls you get the feeling of being led flow instead of directions.
The modern Amsterdamse school use of squares, circles and triangles as patterns, wasn't so modern after all. The use of patterns could be easily traced back to Batik motifs. Bax used the great slide (see picture above) to demonstrate this.

The Dutch East Indies left a clear line in our history and if you just know where to look, you'll find it on many places. The influence in not only found here of course, but also oversees. Ben de Vries from the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed gave an very interesting presentation about station architecture in Indonesia from the Dutch East Indies. And the preserving of colonial buildings abroad was extensively discussed. It is a very interesting subject and a lot is happing at the moment. A VOC building in Publicat is going to be saved from being demolished, Louis Couperus home were he wrote 'De Stille Kracht' is discovered and on Sunday mornings in Indonesia the colonial time is being acted out with role playing. I will save this subject for another post, try to visit the exhibition “Vroeger is een ver land” ("The Past in a Foreign Country") at the Tropenmuseum first!
Drs. Ben de Vries gave an inspiring presentation

More information about the interesting project by Sporen van Smaragd on www.sporenvansmaragd.nl and in my blogpost 'Traces of Emerald'. Also a very beautiful publication (in Dutch) is made!
Monarch kite at the entrance of the Tong Tong Fair

June 13, 2013

The real deal

Photo made on Pasar Malam in Breda

A while back I began to notice that almost no one is wearing real Batiks. A year ago when I visited the Tong Tong Fair, I was disappointed that there was little Batik being sold, and the batik that was being sold wasn't handmade, it was mostly printed.
This year I was paying more attention to the actual Batiks being worn. Because of my Batik Statement project I'm more focused on the subject. What shocks me, is that actually no one is wearing real Batiks and if you ask them about what they are wearing they assume its real. Most of the time they even bought it in Indonesia or on a Pasar Malam where it is being sold under the name 'Batik'.
This is not a scam, you might think that, but in Indonesia printed cloth, or painted by hand, made with canting or cap can all be called Batik. It's not the technique what gives it its name, but the patterned style.
So to really support batik, and to make sure to be wearing the real deal some tips and tricks.

1. One basic trick is to check both sides of the batikcloth (blouse, skirt etc.). Batik is an Indonesian Heritage, because it's made on a specific way only in indonesia! The applying of the wax is always done on both sides of the cloth. This makes the lines more clear and the coloring very pure. Note: On Indian chintz wax is only applied on one side. If the Batik is printed, one side is more faded, the pattern is not so clear.

2. Batik Tulis is handmade, therefore irregularities can be found in the pattern. Not every dot can be the same, and that gives it it's great quality. The more difficult it is to find irregularities the better the Batikmaker is. Of course this depends on the motif of the Batik, but in almost all Batiks a pattern is repeated. Compare and if it is exactly the same, the Batik is printed. Note: Batik made with cap makes the pattern also look similar, but because it is a handmade process you can see the difference between print and made with cap (the cap is pressed to the cloth by hand, also the making of a cap is an art form by itself)

3. Buy the Batik at the workshop. Most workshops have their own store/shop. When you're in a Batikshop, ask if you can visit the workshop. Most times it's behind the store. You can even see the making of the product you're going to take home with you.

4. Buy the batikcloth in Indonesia and let it made into a blouse, skirt or dress also in indonesia. This way, with the tips above, you can be sue your batikclothing for the next Pasar is the real deal. And you can choose how the pattern is shown on your clothing. Note: Some Batik cloths are specially made for blouses so that when the fabric is cut, the pattern is still in tact. Where these Batiks are made, you can also buy the eventual blouse.

Photo made on Pasar Malam in Breda

That's all the tricks and tips for now. I'm not an expert either, and sometimes printed batiks can be really well done. I'm been told that nowadays wax printed Batiks are being made on Java. This development makes it even more difficult to see if it's Batik Tulis or fake.
To support the fine art of Batik Tulis and to keep it from extinction we need to make an effort. It is know that the technical quality of Batik Tulis, made with canting, is far less than what it was before the arrival of the cap. The knowlegde about the technique gets lost because faster methods are being developed (cap and worse, printing) and isn't passed on to the next generation.

VERSION #2 - BTS 'Batik Our Love Story' - The Documentary from Ucu Agustin on Vimeo.


The beautiful documentary 'Batik, Our Love Story' shows this troubling trend in very fine colors. A great story, but with a possible very bad ending.
I'm looking for places to screen the documentary, but there is more needed than sitting down and watching this heritage like watching hunting panthers on the verge of extinction in nature shows.
Why isn't real batik for sale on the many Pasars we have. Where does it go wrong?
In the end we all want the real deal, right?
I'm working on it and in the meantime use my tips and tricks and if you have any useful tips or tricks I can share with my readers, please let me know (comment below!). Also if you are interested in screening 'Batik, Our Love Story' in the Netherlands, please send me an email (see 'About Me').