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Batik: A Play of Light and Shades

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Batik: A Play of Light and Shades
Extent : 359 pages
Size : 255 mm x 345 mm
Weight: 2.5 kg / 55 lbs

This much - awaited book is a must for anyone interested, not only in batik, but in textile design generally. It is, moreover, a joy to read as it presents the information in an interesting and accessible way. It is illustrated throughout with good color photos of the batik designs under discussion, and with photographs (both color, and black and white archival images) showing how the designs are made, and how the finished cloth is worn. Anyone reading about batik for the first time cannot fail to be enchanted by Iwan Tirta's story, and anyone fortunate enough to own the book will treasure it always.

The approach is historical, charting the development of the art of batik over the centuries, but presenting it in terms of a dynamic art that has evolved with time to accomodate changing tastes and technical enhancements.

A deluxe set by Indonesia's best known batik designer. One volume is a richly illlustrated book which discusses the development of batik as an art form. The other volume is a beautiful collection of 69 loose, colour plates of batik patterns and designs -- beautiful enough to frame. An absolute must for the batik afficionado. Gilt-edged and boxed for the collector.

Batik: A Play of Light and Shades

The story of batik, that wonderful cloth fashioned by the twist of history is a drama involving a great cast of characters, exotic places as well as turns of fate and fortune. The art of batik was practiced elsewhere in the world but on the island of Java, the art became exquisitely refined. It became one of the “court arts” of the royal palace of Central Java.

Seeing batik as a drama, I decided that understanding of this art could be better achieved if it were explained in the framework of a ‘lakon’, a tale or story that forms the basis of the ‘wayang kulit’ or shadow puppet performances of Central and East Java. When a ‘dalang’, the puppet master of the ‘wayang kulit’ unfolds his lakon, he gives a personal interpretation to a story. Although he is given much freedom in this interpretation, the dalang follows a prescribed outline that begins in a court scene that sets the plot. He then proceeds to unfold the story from his own viewpoint t using external forces that influence the ensuing drama and its appropriate resolutions. Like the dalang, I want to give a personal account of batik. This account is based on years of research and draws on the rich cultural milieu of my formative years and of subsequent experiences as a batik designer and as owner and operator of batik workshops and studios in Jakarta and Central Java.

Like the puppet master of a shadow play performance, I have chosen to narrate this story in the traditional prescribed sequence. After a brief introduction, the narrative begins in the dramatic center-the royal courts of Java, the cultural centers where the art of batik was elevated to levels of refinement unparalleled anywhere in the world. Our drama unfolds with factors that affected change in batik including the long chain of foreign influence on the Indonesian archipelago.

I have called this book Batik-A Play of Light and Shades to conjure up enticing images of the mystical experience of being present at a wayang performance. Puppets skillfully moved in front of a lamp, create a silhouettes on a translucent screen, representing a broad spectrum of ideal personalities and their opposing forces. The mysteries of the night are intensified with the sounds of the gamelan, a percussion orchestra that has been called “the sound of moonlight and flowing water”. The air is filled with the rich smell of clove-scented cigarettes, and often of incense and flowers. Villagers chat around gaslight lamps while sipping endless glasses of thick, syrupy tea sweetened with sugar

As a designer, I work to translate a valued tradition into a modern art. My hope is that this book will help keep the art alive by telling the story of batik’s rich cultural background. Understanding the setting in which it reached its pinnacle will contribute to its vitality in the years to come. What follows is not meant to be a definitive statement on batik. Far from writing a monograph, I hope simply to present the major themes, the players and the scenes where this magnificent art grew to its greatest refinement. Even after years of working in batik and studying the subject, many questions remain and many conclusions are debatable. Despite this, I am proud to present Batik—A play of light and Shades—my interpretation of batik— for your generous consideration.

Gallery: A Collections of Batik Patterns and Designs

This collection of color plates of batik patterns and designs is produced to complement and further illustrate the book, Batik –A play of light and shades. For more than four decades, I have seen, handled, produced and collected myriads of batiks. Some of them, because of their intrinsic beauty, have made a lasting impression, while others I cherish because of what they reveal.

The batiks appearing in this collection are purely personal choices based on what I perceived as beautiful. The gallery begins with pen drawings of batik motifs. These show the intricacy and structural basis of the patterns before they are further enhanced by the colors of the various dyes.

My hope is that through this collection plates the reader not only gets a feeling and an impression of the beauty and variety of the pieces but also hears the story that they have to tell us, a story of mythology and history, personalities, human drama and craftsmanship.

The gallery collection is presented essentially according to regional origin. A chronological order is not adhered to. On the reverse side of each plate are some historical, artistic and personal observations about the patterns and designs, the artist, the craftspeople and the methodology. The interaction of these various facets is truly a play of light and shades.

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