Batik with Kawung, Ceplok and Parang motif designs

Kawung batik motif

The Kawung, a brief history and my interpretations.

The Kawung motif photographed in the Danar Hadi Museum in Solo.
The Kawung motif photographed in the Danar Hadi Museum in Solo.
Detail of batik by Marina Elphick, with Kawung and Ceplok motifs.
Detail of batik by Marina Elphick, with Kawung and Ceplok motifs.

The Kawung is one of the oldest batik motifs, consisting of a four lobed stylised flower, based on the Areca Palm blossom. The cross section of the palm fruits and their seeds are also said to inspire the design. Part of the Ceplok (circle) family of designs, the Kawung can be arranged as intersecting circles in some of its variations, making dynamic repeated patterns.

Repeated Kawung in a Ceplok design photographed from "Indonesian batik designs" by J.E Jasper & Mas Pirngadie.
Repeated Kawung in a Ceplok design photographed from “Indonesian batik designs” by J.E Jasper & Mas Pirngadie.

Known in Java since the 13th century the Kawung appears on Hindu temple walls such as Prambanan and Kediri and Loro Jonggrang, providing valuable visual reference connected to Sakti mythology, the Goddess of all creation in Hinduism.

Kawung  design at Dana Hadi Batik Museum in Solo.
Kawung design at Dana Hadi Batik Museum in Solo.
Kawung in a design more recognisable as Areca flower, though highly stylised. From the Danar Hadi collection.
Kawung in a design more recognisable as Areca flower, though highly stylised. From the Danar Hadi collection.

The Kawung has many symbolic meanings, its association to the palm blossom indicates purity and honesty, while the palm fruit refers to fertility and hope. There is also a profound philosophy attached to it of universal energy and the sacred origin of human life, longevity and eternal life.

Kuwang appearing in a diagonal  Parang design. This would have been worn in the Royal courts.
Kuwang appearing in a diagonal Parang design. This would have been worn in the Royal courts.

The design was originally worn only by the Sultan and his family and was one of the forbidden batik motifs for the general population. In this context the Kawung was linked with power, wisdom and justice and was thought to imbue these qualities to the wearer.

Kawung Universal Energy, batik art work by UK batik artist Marina Elphick. Batik art inspired by traditional Indonesian batik.
Kawung Universal Energy, batik art work by Marina Elphick.
The simple Kawung motif.
The simple Kawung motif.

The simplicity of the design reflects the idea of a structured universe, the visual representation of four directions and the four classical elements of earth, fire, air and water. Batik artists and philosophers Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam interpret Kawung further with binaries of death and regeneration, the divine and worldly needs, love and compassion and acceptance of destiny. Agus told me he saw the design as ” functioning like a sieve to sort through life’s experiences”.

Batik art by batik artist Marina Elphick inspired by Kawung and Parang motifs.
Batik by Marina Elphick inspired by Kawung and Parang motifs.

I have started using the Kawang and Parang in my batik artwork and am exploring the abstract and design elements of the motifs while considering their meanings for further planned work.

Parang Journey, batik by Marina Elphick. Traditional batik motifs Kuwang and Parang are interpreted in a contemporary way by this batik artist. Batik art.
Parang Journey, batik by UK batik artist Marina Elphick.
Symbology 1, batik by Marina Elphick. Traditional batik motifs Kawung and Ceplok motifs used in a contemporary way.
Symbology 1, batik by UK batik artist Marina Elphick. Kawung and Ceplok motifs used in a harmonious range of colours.

These are the first of a series of batik artworks that will be examining and reflecting the effects of colour and design on emotion and feelings.

Firebird with Parang tongues of fire, batik on cotton by artist Marina Elphick. Batik art by  batik artist who interprets traditional batik motifs in a contemporary way.
Firebird with Parang tongues of fire and Ceplok design, batik on cotton by UK batik artist Marina Elphick.

Parang motif arranged as fire, with Phoenix like bird rising from the flames. The Ceplok and Kuwang symbolise immortality and the long journey to eternal life.

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2 thoughts on “Kawung batik motif

  1. Dear Marina, Thanks for your latest blog with lovely batik designs and links with the Javanese designs. It feels as though you have been re-energised by the trip to Java and Bali.

    Like

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