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The Aesthetic Freedom of Batik

Batik’s three-dimensional effect is attributed to the fine cracking of the wax on the fabric that allows small amounts of dye to seep into the fabric, thus giving the design a textural depth.

Indian batik featuring a traditional motif of Ganesha, the Hindu elephant deity
Indian batik featuring a traditional motif of Ganesha, the Hindu elephant deity

The traditional designs and motifs in Indian batik are often passed down from one generation to another. These motifs generally fall under two categories – geometrical patterns and free flow designs. The former commonly involves designs transferred from paper onto the fabric, while the latter allows artisans to freely express their artistic skills with elaborate motifs. Traditional non-geometrical batik motifs may represent the beauty of nature such as flowers, leaves, birds, fish, insects and animals. Other more intricate motifs depict humans, folk scenes and Gods.

The Garuda, a mythical humanoid bird popular in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, is yet another common elaborate motif found in traditional Indian batik. The use of indigo, brown and white colours is traditionally a tribute to the Hindu Gods - Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. These three colours are amongst many that are used in Indian batik. Colours are often vivid and contrasting, capturing all the fine details of the design.

Geometric patterns of batik print  Free flow design in batik, featuring a traditional elephant motif
L: Geometric patterns of batik print
R: Free flow design in batik, featuring a traditional elephant motif

Contemporary designs in batik pay homage to its traditional designs, though it may differ in style. Contemporary batik artisans may make use of stencils to outline designs or use the discharge dyeing method when dyeing the fabric. Discharge dyeing involves using a bleaching agent to remove dye. This innovative method of dyeing allows for light colours to be printed on darker colours. The uncustomary use of such tools and techniques in batik printing has allowed for artisans to create products that meet the demands of modern fashion.

Contemporary Indian batik produced by means of discharge dyeing
Contemporary Indian batik produced by means of discharge dyeing

Nevertheless, both traditional and contemporary motifs and techniques of batik printing allow the artisan freedom of artistic expression. This attributes to the uniqueness and authenticity of each and every batik print, which is ingrained with the artisan’s individual aesthetic style.

Traditional batik printed fabric to be used as dress material  Contemporary batik printed wall hanging
L: Traditional batik printed fabric to be used as dress material
R: Contemporary batik printed wall hanging

 

Images: An Elephant A Day, Kate Wetsell, Charan Creations, D'Source