by RITA TREFOIS
My opinion is that there are generally way too many books dealing with the technique of Batik but although the Belgian artist Rita Trefois does cover all the bases of technique in her recent “Fascinating Batik” publication, she goes beyond mere process to explore the full gamut of an underrated art form, both historically and currently, as well as covering the materials like dyes very comprehensively. It’s an odd thing, this obsession with the technique of Batik; too often, we batik artists are asked how we achieved such and such an effect or even how long a painting took to complete. Nobody asks these questions of an oil painter or a water-colourist after all! Surely we batik artists can keep a few of our secrets along the way- and since when did the amount of time taken to complete a painting have anything at all to do with the resulting work? Ask James MacNeil Whistler how long any of his masterpieces took to complete or even Vincent Van Gogh who managed to complete several pieces in a day. Time taken has nothing whatsoever to do with results, whether it be long or short. Results are what matter in the final analysis.
So saying, Rita Trefois goes into some detail on the tools, resists, dyes and process, information that is available elsewhere, without giving away too many of her artists’ secrets along the way. She illustrates her book with some magnificent paintings by many of the batik artists of her generation, making a strong point that newcomers to the art form are moving away from the traditional process and incorporating digital effects and mixed media in an effort to maintain relevancy and stretch the medium a little further.
Particularly interesting and striking are Trefois’ own abstract paintings, those of Japanese Rozome artists like Shoukoh Kobayashi whose “Sound of Wind” is a marvel and and Peter Wenger’s work which although simplistic in a way, shows great understanding of the advantages of the Batik art medium. If I have any criticisms of the illustrations used in this book, it is that the school of Batik realists is barely shown; Batik is a medium that after all can easily lend itself to startling and attractive effects whilst producing accurate and realistic art using this medium is an extraordinarily complex and difficult way to go. In the USA, a country which has a very strong school of batik realism, one finds a broader range of artists- portraitists, impressionists and realists, while Ms Trefois focuses primarily on European and Asian artists in this book. Her world is obviously the field of abstract and abstract expressionist artists and many other forms of the batik medium are ignored. But it is a very welcome addition to the literature of batik, beautifully illustrated and full of information. Most importantly perhaps, it is the record of the work of some of the best artists of the late 20th century working in the Batik medium whilst pointing both backwards and forwards in its scope. If you want to own one good book about advanced Batik techniques with great examples of this ancient art, this is the book for you. The book “Fascinating Batik” by Rita Trefois may be ordered through MyBatik Magazine at www.buybatik.com.my