April 21, 2016

The journey to Batik

First let me start by wishing you a great Hari Kartini! May all your equal rights come true!
Seven years ago I started this blog, my journey to Batik. I was preparing a literal journey to visit different places on Java and to learn as much as possible about Batik. The journey didn't stop after my visit in October 2009. I continued on this blog sharing my new found knowledge and the great stuff I found about Batik. I gathered as much as I could here in the Netherlands and in the process learned a great deal about Dutch history and culture.
Every 7 years is a new cycle and I remember being really bumped out I had to celebrate the 5th and 6th anniversary of my blog without being able to return to Java. Because I don't believe in coincidence, but do believe in synchronicity, I think it is really special and it is the perfect moment to announce my second journey to Batik.
My first post on this blog was my announcement on 21 April 2009 of my upcoming journey to Java in October. I added a picture of my bird, a Ricebird or Java sparrow, who was my muze for almost 10 years. I called the little bird Batik because of his roots in Indonesia. At that time I wasn't busy with Batik yet and I still only made paintings on paper.
My feathery friend changed a lot. I got him months before my graduation and he somehow represented the start of my art career. I left my love or better said, I stayed where I was and I chose to stay with my bird and a standing lamp (Ask me if you meet me).
In the beginning of 2007 I made my first ricecarpet which I named 'Ricebird'. Experimenting with patterns in my temporary carpets, wallpaper installations and works on paper made me want to explore outside of the Western artworld. I started looking at Persian carpets, different folk arts, including Dutch ones and Batik. I was a free artist now and the set of rules given by the teachers of the Art Academy were no longer rules, but guidelines.
Batik (the Indonesian fabric) was already a part of my life for many years, maybe always. My grandparents made their first journey to Indonesia in the seventies and I grew up surrounded by Batik fabrics, Wayang dolls and wood carvings. It was much later that I learned that not every Dutch person was surrounded with Indonesian things. I always found it logical that we were, because of our shared history and heritage.
At the end of 2008, living with my two wonderful men, the bird & the man, I shared my thoughts and quest with Fonds BKVB (now Mondriaan Fonds); how to communicate with the patterns I make. I told them I wanted to visit Java and learn Batik. At that time I was still focussed on learning the technique. They thought it was a good idea and I got the grant. I started making my arrangements and in October 2009 I visited Java for one month. When I arrived, on the 6th of October, I was told: Why weren't you here on the 2nd if you are here for Batik? I wasn't there because of my birthday and the birthday the next day of my father. It turned out Batik was officially the UNESCO Heritage of Indonesia and they celebrated that on the 2nd of October. Since 2009 my birthday is also the Batik Day of Indonesia.
I learned during my one month visit that there was much difference between mastering the technique and the philosophy of Batik. The technique is passed on many generations from mother to daughter and I realized I would not be mastering this skill like girls that started at the age of 8 with their mother, Master of the Artform, as their teacher. I was welcome at many places to return and learn, but when I got back in the Netherlands a lot happend. And it was just not possible for me to go back.
Because I couldn't return, I started focussing on what I could learn here. It turned out I could learn a great deal. Especially about the philosophy of Batik, the language of the symbols and colours. This philosophy was what I was missing in my work and with Batik I learned to create symbols and patterns in my own technique.
After years with different projects around temporary carpets and installations, I decided to focus this year on Batik again. Also because by the end of this year I will be working as an artist for 10 years and my bird would have been in my life 10 years. The saddest thing happend and I'm still a recovering under cover over lover, recovering from a love I can't get over, as Erykah Badu would sing it. Our sweet friend, my muze, my inspiration passed away 1 February.
At first I thought, I can't dedicate this year to Batik now, but I realized that there is no better way to honor my little bird and his influence on my work.
This year is a new beginning in many ways. I live in a new city. I'm making a new website so you can see what I made these past 10 years and my blog will be still about Batik, always, but there will be more room for my work, about what inspired and influenced it.
In September I will be traveling to Java to make a project about the wonderful art of Batik. I'm going to collaborate with different artists I met there in 2009 and online. I still have to prepare a lot, but I will keep you posted through my blog and if you already want to know more, please send me an email sabine{at}sabinebolk.nl.


* Batik Statement 'The rise of Batik' made in January in our new garden. I'm wearing layers of fabrics Batik and Batik-inspired. In my right hand my own Batik from Jeruk, in my left a Batik from Lasem 
** Me in front of my own Batik. Designed by me, made in Jeruk.

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