Journal Entry of an Artist Who Makes Batik Paintings

I want to write about how Indonesia, batik, painting, selling art, living a foreign solitary existence, so many elements of my life have fit together into a harmony right now that has allowed me to produce a body of work that sings.

I want to think about the metaphor “batik”; of wax, layers, color dyes that initially do not look like the color they turn out to be. Colors that need to be ”fixed” before they can ”take”, the same color dye fixed with a different fixative produces a whole different color. The absurdity of using indigo sol dyes which are solar activated, and that therefore need the sun in order to penetrate the cloth – and here I am making art in a tropical climate with two seasons: the dry season and the wet season. During the wet season, I may not see the sun for days or weeks. Hence, weather influences my palette. It also forces me to slow down. My patience and my flexibility are infinitely greater than even if I were an oil painter in the Amazon. Building up layers and layers from white to dark and back again, perhaps. Each color taking two stages, waxing and dyeing. The layers of wax obscuring the image and color so much that each underlying step is cloaked and hidden until the final stage of boiling. Only then, when the painting is submerged in the hot, boiling water, does the wax come off and the true painting emerge. Until then, each piece is only a process, play experimentation. Finally, clean of wax, a painting is born.

I want to think more about the creative power of mistakes. Mistakes are really opportunities in disguise. If, in fact, I accidentally dip into the wrong dye (and I have been known to do that), then I have a color unplanned. Rarely does it disturb me except on paintings where I have a very predetermined plan, a committed game plan of what I want the end result to be, and therefore I am more attached to each stage. I’m not that good to be so attached. Batik is too complicated a medium to be totally accurate. The few times my ire has been up has been because of thinking I wanted something other than what I got. I have had to abandon my plan and follow on the path of spontaneity. Flexibility is the best committed batik path around.

Laura, March 1993

Posted in All, From Laura

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