I am a UK batik artist and have worked professionally in the technique for over thirty years. Drawing is very important to me, so is good design and colour, all of which are essential in batik. My work is mostly figurative and my metier is portraiture, but flora, fauna and mythical themes are also areas that inspire me. I am regularly commissioned to create batik portraits, often with highly personalised, symbolic background settings, which allow a great deal of freedom for the imagination and for batik.
I always wanted to be a working artist and became interested in batik early in my career. I was captivated by its intensity and greatly inspired by its possibilities. After taking a degree course at Goldsmiths in Textile Art in the eighties, I worked dedicatedly with batik hoping to promote its wonderful flowing qualities and luminous colour in a world which was at the time dominated by rigid traditions in what qualified as art.
Despite a climate of art heading for the realms of “anything goes”, ( video art, installation, conceptualism, minimalism etc,) batik was not welcome as a medium in the art world in the 1980s. I struggled to explain to London gallery proprietors that batik was a viable art form and could be exhibited in a similar way to oil or watercolour. I believe the problem was the fact batik is a textile, something that in certain minds reflects domesticity and femininity and maybe didn’t appeal in the Western art scene at that time.
Batik did however offer me the opportunity to be distinctive in commercial art and I was successful with various publishers for book cover illustration. My batik artwork was unique and had qualities that the regular air brushed watercolour illustrations didn’t have, yet was just as versatile. This work, along with commissions and a few part time batik teaching posts at art schools and primary schools kept me busy for many years.
My current work is inspired by all the wonderful batik I saw in Yogyakarta, I am examining traditional batik motifs and finding a new way of interpreting the designs. Some of my batiks are worked on fabric and others on watercolour paper, using wax, dye and acrylic inks. Working on paper gives quite a different effect, possibly more painterly, but still with the distinctive clarity of the resist technique.
My four weeks away in Indonesia were totally absorbing and inspiring and will keep me reinvigorated with a new dedication to batik as an art form for the future.