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.      


  1. I am very impressed with the information that you told us about this interesting and unusual event.

  2. Yes, his death was a great loss for a lot of people who was devoted to him and his work. I wish I could attend that event you are writing about, I would really like to know more about Asian Arts. Thanks a lot for keeping us updated.

  3. My late condolences, his death was really a huge loss for The Batik of Java. Thank you for the links, I am really interested to know more about Asian Arts. I am looking forward to reading more.


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