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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Batik - Batik of Java - North coast of Java batik - Batik tiga negeri textiles

 (Click on image to enlarge)
Batik tiga negeri (detail)
Probably Lasem, Pekalongan/Kudus and Surakarta
Tjoa Siang Hing workshop, 1930s
Skirt cloth kain panjang
Cotton, natural dyes; batik tulis
104.4 X 253.0 cm

This page is devoted to a batik tiga negeri work or 'three countries' batik where the cloth is dyed in three towns. 

My apologies for the lack of postings in recent times but I look forward to continuing to share my passion for north coast of Java (Pasisir) batik with you.  In upcoming postings I will share with you some of the new batiks that have come into the collection.  These include a magnificent art work done in the Kudus style by Mrs. Jane Hendromartono (nĂȘe Oey Djien Nio).  She signed her batiks with her husband's name, Liem Siek Hien.  She is a third generation batik artist following in the tradition of her mother (Oey Kok Sing), and grandmother (Oey Soen Khing).   

I really appreciate any comments or insights to Pasisir batik you may wish to share.  In particular, I would like to hear from anyone who can tell me more about the Tjoa Siang Hing workshop where this beautiful work above, was produced.    

The  name tiga negeri- 'three countries' indicates that this fabric was dyed in three towns, each of them famous for producing a particular type of colour with natural dyes.  For example, following the first dyeing in Lasem in red (mengkudu), the fabric was sent to Kudus to be dyed in blue (indigo) and then to Surakarta to be dyed in brown (soga).  Each time new wax designs had to be drawn.

Fabrics of this kind became popular in the 1920s and 1930s.  The production was usually coordinated by Chinese businessmen.  The label on this cloth names the workshop of Tjoa Siang Hing as the producer of this cloth.

The complex, eclectic style of this cloth reflects the diversity of local traditions which contributed to its execution.  While the brown trellis motif of the background is typical of the wedding cloths of central Java, the flowers- chrysanthemums and peonies- were favoured by Chinese clients from the north coast of the island.
(Dr Maria Wronska-Friend- from the extended label for the work in the exhibition, Batik of Java: poetics and politics, organised by Caloundra Regional Gallery:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Batik of Java: poetics and politics

Batik with lokcan-influenced design
Trusmi near Cirebon
Batik Masina workshop, c 2000
Shawl selendang (detail)
Cotton, synthetic dyes; batik tulis
52.5 x 210.0 cm

Birds of paradise set among lotus flowers and vines are a favourite decorative style of north Java textiles.  Chinese silk batik lokcan and Indian chintz cloths have inspired this design.

The design of this cloth has been influenced by silk batiks of the Chinese community of Java (lokcan fabrics) as well as by Indian chintz fabrics of flowering trees and fantastic birds.
(Maria Wronska-Friend, from the exhibition Batik of Java: poetics and politics, organised by Caloundra Regional Gallery, Queensland, Australia).

We purchased this beautiful selendang from the Masina workshop located in Trusmi outside Cirebon, in 2007.  Batiking has been done in the Masina family for generations.

In my previous Blog I did not mention meeting at the opening of the exhibition, Heda Bailey.  Heda is passionate about batik, its rich cultural heritage and its future.  You can experience her passion at: and: .


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Batik of Java: poetics and politics

The exhibition, The Batik of Java: poetics and politics, organised by the Caloundra Regional Gallery is in its final week at the gallery before it moves onto the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery in Townsville from 3 December 2010 to 6 February 2011.  The curator is Dr Maria Wronska-Friend, an anthropologist and museum curator specialising in textiles and costumes of Southeast Asia.

The exhibition is accompanied by a beautifully designed 64 page catalogue.  There are also five gift cards available that highlight a detail from five of the batiks in the exhibition.  Contact details for the Caloundra Regional Gallery- E: and Web:

There have also been two excellent articles written by Maria Wronska-Friend in The Journal of the Asian Arts Society of Australia, Volume 19 No. 2 June 2010 and in Textile Fibre Forum, Volume Twenty-Nine Issue 3 No. 99, 2010.

If you have an interest in Asian Arts then a subscription to the Asian Arts Society of Australia Inc. is a must: and enquiries to:  The editor of TAASA Review is Josefa Green.

Similarly if you have an interest in textiles a subscription to Textile Fibre Forum is a must: or email:  The editor is Janet De Boer O.A.M.

I will do further follow up on the exhibition in future blogs.

The batik above is: Skirt cloth with sea-creatures design; Paoman village near Indramayu, 2000; cotton, synthetic dyes; hand-applied wax resist (batik tulis); 103.0 x 275.0 cm.  The batiks of Indramayu frequently depict the marine life of the sea port.  Here we see lobsters and fish swimming amongst the sea-weed.  Unlike other parts of Java where the batiks are executed with great accuracy and control, the Indramayu motifs were drawn with a wonderful sense of freedom and movement of line.

It was very sad to read of the death on Saturday 31 July 2010, of the renowned batik designer Iwan Tirta at the age of 75 .  There is world worldwide recognition of his talent and knowledge.  Two books of his that have given me much are: Batik- Pattern & Motif,  Penerbit Djambatam, 1966, and Batik : A Play of Light and Shades, Gaya Favorit Press, 1996.  This is a magnificent publication in a two volume boxed set.

A passage from, Batik : A Play of Light and Shades, that gives a wonderful insight into Iwan Tirta are his own words in response to comments made by Harjonagoro (the Indonesian artist and batik master Go Tik Swan) in the Preface written by Gareth L. Steen, on page 19:

 "I studied at the feet of Harjonagoro, who is a purist and I listened to his wisdom.  His philosophy and technique is central to what has evolved in my own workshop.  I digested his lessons and later developed my own vision based on his ideals.  These are precision, balance, beauty and harmony of design."

I wish I had the opportunity to meet him and absorb just half of  his repository of knowledge of Indonesian batik.      

Monday, March 8, 2010

Batik of Java: poetics and politics

While on a trip along the north coast of Java in 2007 we spent time in Cirebon, a city we fell in love with.  One of the batik workshops we visited was Batik Madil where we spent a couple of hours with batik artist Ega Sugeng.  Batik Madil is in the village of Trusmi.  It was truly wonderful to be shown the batik that has been developed at the workshop since late 19th century.  It was a difficult process but we finally decided to commission a kain sarong incorporating the kembang rangdu negerian motif which the workshop first created in 1912.  The work took almost twelve months to complete.  We strongly believe in supporting batik artists who are creating batik today as well as collecting older pieces of batik cloth.

This flawlessly executed cloth (above image is a detail), is embellished by its multiple colours (12), and bright summer flowers and butterflies depicting the high season of life.  The kepala is made up of slanting bands or dlorong.  Each band varies in colour, the type of flower and vary intricate isen.  The border of the badan is a repretition of one of the dlorong making up the kepala.  This is an extremely dynamic art work with great boldness and strong harmony- its young, vital and beautiful.

The Madmils are natives of Trusmi and have been making batik for generations.  The Madmils are credited with unearthing and reviving some of the sacred royal patterns of the Court of Cirebon.

We wish to acknowledge our good friend Ajib who safely drove us on this journey of discovery from Yogyakarta, west to Bogor, up to Indramayu, east along the coast and returning to Yogya via Solo.