Emilia Tan (born 1981)
the batik artist & textile designer, also the founder & director of myBatik.
My name is Tan Mei Shia ( T.M.S ) , with my surname being Tan. However everyone loves to call me Emilia. I was born in Selangor, Malaysia in 1981 and my obsession with art emerged soon after the age of six. I was doing very well in watercolour painting for more than 10 years during my primary school and high school period before I decided to enter the world of Batik.
In 1999, after high school, I decided to travel around Asia in a journey of exploration to find my way in life. I spent two years finding my way, studying about other countries’ cultures and humanism. I became very interested in Australian Aboriginal art from the first time I arrived in Australia. I became determined to study more about Aboriginal art staying in Melbourne, Australia for six months.
My Journey as an Artist is evolving slowly.
My Wonderful Teachers
In 2001 with Ms. Fatimah Chik and Mr. Samsuddin as my guides, I was slowly and gently introduced to the art of Batik during my textile and fashion design course at the Malaysian Institute of Art (M.I.A). I have been very fortunate to have so many wonderful teachers and the instruction that I received has been invaluable to my artistic development. Ms. Fatimah Chik and Mr. Samsuddin are recognised as Malaysian’s finest Batik artists presently. I studied under them, cultivating an appreciation of contemporary art and experimenting with abstract impressionism. They shared with me many techniques that they had experimented with and devised over the years. I developed a strong interest in batik painting and soon displayed a talent that enabled myself to work as an artist of considerable repute.
The time that I have spent in Australia has been the biggest influence on my work. The influences of my world are Australian Aboriginal art, with its very fine lines and fine dots. I have succeeded to create my own style with a mix of aboriginal art styles with batik technique. The influences of Malaysian batik and European impressionist movements are obvious in my work, where the emphasis is always on technique and the message portrayed is “It’s not what I paint, but how I create it, so that it will belong to me, and leads off to my own style”. My work, a painting with integrity speaks for itself and prefers to dwell on purity, intuition and integrity. It is a form of painting that mixes traditional impressionistic values with versatility- an honest interest in contemporary batik art. I use influences and symbols from many cultures in my work, rather than painting in a fixed traditional Malay Batik style.
my inspiration , concept & composition
My inspiration comes from my inner spiritual life, images surface from my ongoing and deeply personal relationship with the surface of life. It also guides my spiritual growth, healing and brings me to a new level of spiritual fulfillment.
My innate sense of design and colour and my love of Australian Aboriginal art join together to create a contemporary Batik art form. All my Batiks contain basic aspects of my work: original in concept, imaginative in treatment, brimming with action and life. This is the most critical part of developing my own style. My inner vision emerges from my own life experiences. I trust my own intuition and keep searching for my own vision.
There will be times where I may feel totally uninspired. The creative process is not always continuous and the execution of an idea can be interrupted or even grinds to a stop. I tell myself to keep an open mind because the process may still be incubating. I have never been discouraged or afraid to change directions. This may be the time when the birth of new ideas are forming below my consciousness; which does not demand perfection of myself. This is a time to reflect in my journal and try to visualize the direction I may want to go. By keeping the faith, the uniqueness will eventually emerge.
It is rare that a situation such as this presents itself – the opportunity for Malaysians to purchase modernist painting of an international standard. My work is characterised by rich and vivid colour with very strong contrast and contemporary batik style.
My Painting Style : Realism & Abstraction
I alternate between realism and abstraction in my paintings. While the result looks very different, basically the process and the goals are the same. Although I try to work intuitively and spontaneously, I am still so aware of the rules and principles of design that my intuitive decisions are all filtered through my design sensibilities.
I love painting abstracts because the spirit of my soul comes out and I truly paint from my heart. I try to paint the subject as I perceive it rather than try to achieve a realistic interpretation. Using an abstract motif is a marvellous way to practice creating loss and found edges; producing a painting that is expressive in its emotional content. When I create abstract art, I normally work with the basic elements of design and colour theories, but I am not limited to rendering an accurate representation.
I love to use rich multi-layered surfaces. Layering color over color or material over material builds depth and luminosity. The richness of several layers interacting and the sense of mystery created by successive layers peeking through my painting are the elements that make my work unique.
Abstraction and realism are the two finished forms my work takes but from my prospective the similarities far overweight the differences. The common unifying factor is design.
‘inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it ‘ – Madeleine L.Engle
I love to apply many colours in my painting that makes it more colourful. As the more colour used in the work, means more energy will be transmitted to my painting. Actually, colour is the most expressive element of art and can move a painting from a mere depiction of fact to one that expresses a variety of emotions. The composition of each colour is different; each colour’s personality will emerge as the colour is floating on the water through the surface of the fabric. I usually add colour to a very wet fabric surface, giving it the image of being caught in the moment between time and space.
It works by placing a wet colour on top of a dry color and covering with removable wax on each layer. When dry this creates a neutral tone. I create contrasting colours when I layer a dark colour over a light or a textured surface over a smooth surface, change the temperature when I layer cool over warm, or create a concept where I layer an image over an image.
I love to paint my composition by layering colour over colour, working from light to dark. The use of complementary colors allows me to accurately express almost anything I desire. An important element in evoking emotion and conveying a particular mood is my choice and use of colour.
My Mastering Techniques
Batik, a Javanese term meaning “wax painting”, indicates a system of motif application by dyeing finished cloths. The technique involves the dyeing of fabrics where parts of the cloth not to be dyed are covered with layers of removable wax. The fabric is then immersed in dye with the waxed portions resisting the dye. This process is repeated for each colour.
I found my own artistic identity in contemporary Batik art. As for techniques that need to be mastered in contemporary Batik, these include blocking, tjanting, tie-dye and cracking. Each technique is represented separately, but when I combine all these technique, a contemporary batik painting is produced. The tool that I personally use the most as a batik painter is the tjanting technique.
By breaking down and analysing the techniques one by one, I can see that tjanting technique works best for me. It is easier to control when comparing with other techniques. The most difficult technique is cracking. The characteristic “cracking” is the interesting little veinings of color, occur when the congealed wax, hard and brittle, ruptures and the dye are able to penetrate these places.
I love to paint wet-into-wet, because it is the most creative, sensuous and energetic of all techniques. Lifting is a very basic yet critical technique used to create some white and to help achieving a fresh look in my painting. The first lifting usually occurs during the wet-to-wet process. While the color is floating on the sizing, the color will easily lift off the fabric. Lifting with a thirsty brush, tissue, sponge or any absorbent tools can achieve this look.
By adding salt, it can create a grapular texture when dropping it onto a wet surface. The salt actually repels the water and leaves a white shape that varies in sizes depending on the size of the original salt particles and the degree of dampness of the fabric. A soft and dissolved look will finally occur using this technique. The use of salt is not one of my favourite techniques because the salt leaves a residue when it dries that could affect the permanence of color. For your information, during times of high humidity, the salt may even reactivate and continue to dissolve the paint. This is the main reason why I avoid using salt in my painting.
Another techniques is by rubbing alcohol with water as it wicks into the fabric; creating a whirsical, soft bubble-shaped texture. However alcohol is so unpredictable that it can penetrate the shapes. It can be applied by dripping, spraying or painting. I succeeded in producing a marvellous line by squeezing the alcohol out of a bottle with a needle on the top.
Finally let’s talk a little bit more about collage technique here as well. Use of many collage fabrics in different sizes, colours, shapes, textures are glued to the work to add harmonic enrichment and to form connecting elements that add unity to the painting. The entire surface is then wet and more color is applied onto those collage fabrics. The new interpretation will now be judged on design and content. I have unearthed the key elements of colour, value, texture and shape then integrated them with a new integrity.
I am primarily a Batik painter completing a painting with 90% in batik media and the other 10 % in other media such as acrylic, art maker, crayon and water colour. It is important for me to try as many media as possible to find something new in my batik world and also to find the best combination to suit my intention and artistic personality. I always keep my antennae tuned into a new direction. I try to be open minded in my works and I’m never afraid of trial and error. I know in my heart that my uniqueness will emerge in my art works.
Knowledge of all the technical expertise available is still not my ultimate goal but rather, a starting point. I give myself permission to go into search mode and explore myself, through trial and error to find the path to my own personal style. After a period of time observing and experimenting, I can see some results from the combinations of these techniques.
‘Art is an expression of your own vision and eventually you will make up your own rules. Inspiration is everywhere. My journey through the world of batik is a continuing adventure and I still find myself learning and discovering everyday. ‘ said this 22 years old young Batik artist, Emilia.
when come to 34 years old now, as a mother for a daughter, jia jia, very busy life everyday, handling the career & semi house wife, ” mistake show me what i need to learn” this is how to keep her continuos to discover her batik journey.
last updated 13 May 2015 Kuala Lumpur.