Batik Paintings

Batik Paintings

Batik painting as a definitive art form of South East Asia has been an iconic imperative of the region. An art form specially used on clothes, Batik Painting in India and throughout Asia has gained enormous popularity since UNESCO assigned Batik Painting as a ‘Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ on October 2, 2009. However, it has become a fashion statement in the global culture of garment designing and pattern making and is in vogue in the New York, Milan or Paris fashion house.

Batik is derived from the Indonesian word ‘Batique’. Even though the word has a Javanese origin, its etymological root may be derived from two words, viz. amba which means ‘to write’ and titik meaning ‘dot or point’. Some may also find its root in the Proto-Austronesian word beCík, which means 'to tattoo' precisely for the use of needles in the process. However, Batik is a cloth which finds its making in the traditional way of dying the cloth in the wax-resisting process manually. This kind of fabric is produced and highly craved for  in countries like Malaysia, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Singapore, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijam, Indonesia and of course India. Although Batiks are taken more seriously in the Javanese tradition, its patterns and colour scheme are rooted deeply in the Hindu cosmological ideas. Three major colours (indigo, brown and white) represent the three Hindu deities viz. Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar.

What is the Technique of making a Batik Painting?

Batik Painting requires mastery as the final and overall designs of these exquisite art forms have to be conceived even before the first stage of its making. The three important stages in making Batik Painting are:

  • Waxing
  • Dying and
  • De-waxing

It is absolutely necessary to wash the cloth the artists intend to paint. Starch is applied to the cloth and after that the starch is removed. Following this process the cloth is further dried, ironed and stretched. Sometimes designs are roughly drawn with the help of charcoal. Specific areas of the cloth are covered with wax, one of the best dye resisting materials commonly used. The selection of wax and its quality becomes an essential part in the technique of making a Batik Painting. The two most preferred types of waxes are paraffin and beeswax. Both the quality of the waxes can be skillfully made to good use to yield best quality possible by mixing them in the right proportions. With great care the artist may use the Tjanting pen to apply wax and the wax ink. Unlike the other uncovered areas, these areas do not get exposed to the dye and hence interesting patterns and designs are created. Artists who create these art forms enjoy their creative freedom to a great extent, thereby giving rise to innumerable new patterns.

The cloth is washed with a special liquid and later with luke warm water. As a rule, light colour tones are applied before the darker ones.   The natural choice of clothes is usually silk and cotton and the single, double or multi coloured dyes used are entirely extracted from different vegetables, flowers and fruits. In order to get rid of the wax, the cloth is washed in hot water. This process may require repetition depending on the wax content. In the final stage, the cloth is rinsed in cold water and is dipped in sulphuric acid to make the colour applied permanent on the cloth. However, other methods of making a Batik Print or Painting are:

  • Splash method
  • Screen Printing method and
  • Hand Painting or popularly known as Kalamkari by kalamakari pen

How Old is the Art Form of Batik Painting and Print?

The exact date of the genesis of the Batik Paintings is quite difficult to figure out, nut according to the experts, the origin of such art form can be dated back to almost two thousand years ago. Most of the scholars opine that Batik as an art form evolved from the South East Asian tribes of Indonesia.

Where are the Batik Prints and Paintings Popular in India?

Batik Prints and paintings are commonly produced in the states of

  • West Bengal
  • Orissa and
  • Tamil Nadu

Batik Paintings and Prints in West Bengal

In West Bengal, supreme quality of Batik prints and paintings can be found in Santiniketan, in the district of Bankura. Adhering to the patterns which find its source in the everyday life of rural Bengal, the Batik Prints of the region feature cracked designs, religious icons and most importantly, the rural life. Since the place is a cultural hub developed under the supervision of the great poet Rabindranath Tagore, the Batik Paintings in this part of the country stand tall in respect to the others. With pioneers like Nandalal Bose and Binod Behari Mukherjee, the frescos, water and oil works and trickled down to the Batik Paintings and designs – the wonderful portrayal of the rural life, its nature, people and every day activities of life in general. Starting from cloth wallet to sarees, kameezes, bags, jholas, lungis, and wall hangings, the artistic lineage of the region gives the patterns and the designs a degree of high quality in itself.

Batik Paintings and Prints in Orissa

Batik Paintings and prints in this state are different from that of West Bengal in terms of its choice of subjects. Although the processes of creating a Batik Painting on the clothes are same, the designs are taken from mostly the religious figures of Jagannatha, Balarama and Shubhadra and the mythical images related to these deities.

Batik Paintings and Prints in Tamil Nadu

If West Bengal Batik Paintings draw inspiration from the rural lives and the works of Orissa from the religious figures, Tamil Nadu‘s specialty in Batik design are its patterns and woven on poplin fabric. This state specializes in making patterns, and therefore more than the artistry of the creator of the Batik prints, it is the control over the technique of creating the art form becomes much more crucial.

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