September 29, 2014

I'm not mixed, I'm influenced by

Display at the Victoria and Albert Museum

When Chayet from Nothing But The Wax stayed a weekend here (we visited the African Fashion Week in Amsterdam, AFWA, soon more about that), she re-inspired me. We share a great love for Wax prints, but maybe even more for the search to our roots.
My journey to Batik taught me more about Dutch culture than I could ever imagine. I started learning about different culture and folk art, because I didn't get the same inspiration from European art.
When I returned from Indonesia, I started visiting all the places where I could find Indonesian culture. The more I did, the more I got confronted with mine. In a way I was finding my roots.

My search and love for patterns brought me on a pathway leading me towards Batik, Wax prints and Chintz, circling back to my own heritage. I'm maybe not mixed, but I'm influenced by many cultures.
From my research of the language of patterns I learned that a pattern tells a story. Not only through their meaning, new or traditional, but also through their origin.

Everywhere I go I have this longing to see patterns. In textiles, folk-art, architecture or any kind of local expression. Because where I go, is Europe, I tend to bump into Dutch stuff. Even when I was working my way through the different cultural layers at the Victoria and Albert Museum to find batiks on display, I found chintz, the Dutch ones.*

Chintz dress at V&A

The fashion for costume made from Indian painted cotton began in England, France and Holland in the 1660's. It was especially popular at that time for men's morning garments . By the end of the 17th century , chintz had become fashionable for ladies garments as well, especially in Holland. The accession of William and Mary ** to the British throne in 1690 gave a boost to Dutch fashions in England, and soon all the ladies of fashion were wearing chintz materials that had previously been favoured by their maids.***
This last remark from the V&A display is striking. In the book 'Katoendruk in Nederland' ('Printing cotton in the Netherlands') they ask the question if the printed cottons were worn by ladies from different classes and if so, did they wear different patterns.****

 Detail of chintz dress at V&A

Chintz gown at V&A

The fabric for the chintz gown is from South-east India, made up in Holland c.1780

This fashionable open gown would have been worn over a petticoat of silk or matching chintz fabric. The tightly fitted bodice contrasts with the gathered, full skirt which may have been augmented with padding over the hips and back of the skirt. The printed gold spot pattern wold have been applied to an adhesive, probably gun arabic, after the chintz fabric had been painted and dyed.***

Display "Wedding Dresses 1775–2014" at V&A




Around 1675 different factories in Europe started to make printed cotton on a 'East-Indian way', in other words an imitation of chintz from India that were washable and colorfast. In Holland, England, France and Germany they experimented with this new process. The number of cotton printing factories developed fast in Amsterdam due to the market position of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The VOC traded porcelain and chintz from 1602. They started importing huge quantities of plain cottons and were they main supplier of Indigo, the raw material to make blue, from Northwest-India. Madder ("Meekrap"), the base for red, was being grown in the Netherlands itself. The cotton print industry flourished fast, but was already out of fashion around 1800.****

Day dress, Block-prittend cotton 1795-1800, England at V&A

 Detail of Day Dress at V&A

Display with 'Calico-exotical', imitation chintz at Nordiska museet

From the historical clothing display at Nordiska museet

Video of people putting on different historical outfits at Nordiska museet

Textilgalleriet / Textile Gallery at Nordiska museet 

In August I visited the Nordiska museet in Stockholm, Sweden. To my surprise there was a whole room dedicated to textiles.***** In sliding tray cabinets 500 pieces of fabrics are on display. A wonderful way of showing them, and yet keeping them save from daylight. A good example for other museums that now have their textile collection hidden away in depots!
The first trays I opened were filled with embroidered textiles, but on the other side of the room I found all this cabinets with 'Blocktryck' written on the side. 

 'Blocktryck' in sliding tray

'Blåtryck'

My favorite one was a 'Blåtryck'. It looked so much like Batik, but I couldn't find any information in English. In the giftshop I spotted napkins printed with the same design (I wish I had bought them) and even their exhibition leaflet had the textile on its cover.
The briljant 'Katoendruk in Nederland' book, which I mentioned before in this post, says the following about 'Blådruk', or blue print or Indigo Dye:
"Blue print was already well known in The Netherlands (before Indigo was used and very popular). The pattern was applied with wax on the textile and dyed in a "blue-tub" (blauwkuip"). After the blue-tub the wax was washed out. The pattern would be visible in white on a blue background. Before Indigo was imported, they used woad, which gave a less strong blue colour."

Okay, I will definitely look in to that!


** More about 'William and Mary' on Wikipedia 
*** Text from displays at Victoria and Albert Museum
**** Capter 1 'Katoendrukkerijen in de Noordelijke Nederlanden 1678-1820' by Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis in the book 'Katoendruk in Nederland'
***** Textilgalleriet / Textile Gallery at Nordiska museet 
****** Woad on Wikipedia



September 16, 2014

Broaden One's Horizons

Government House dining room, c. 1875, Fiji

Overview exhibition 'Tapa: Barkcloth paintings from the Pacific' at MAA

Autumn is around the corner and the atmosfeer is filled with endings and new beginnings. 
I'm not yet in the position to plan new things, at least I'm trying not to, which makes time to review these passed months. 
Last year I wondered if I should blog. My blog brought me great things, like the opportunity to give a lecture "De reis naar Batik, making a statement" and the Batik Statement Fashionshow. But I wanted to progress my art career. 
This year I couldn't find the time to blog, I noticed that my main reason to blog was still a very good one. Sometimes you just need to make your choice again.

This year I started a study to become a nature guide. I thought it would be the perfect glue to bring my art, blog and nature interest worlds together. Instead it added an extra dimension.
Saturday one of my nature guide teachers said "You should always broaden your horizons". 
So I will use my blog for what it was intended, to write about my interests. 
Which are wide and sometimes seem far apart, seem random and not connect at first, but will always have a common ground. I wanted to share them with you.

My niece and artist Surya de Wit is working on great new artworks about masks. We were sharing cool photos and I remembered I have these books filled with ritual objects including masks from Oceania. Looking through the books together I came across many beautiful Tapa cloths and thought I should write a post first about the exhibition I saw last April in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA). The problem with not blogging immediately about the things you saw, is that time in between will start connecting the dots. 
I started as usual with selecting the photos, but the first photo I saw was of a pattern I just used for an artwork. Did it got stuck in my mind then? Or is this what happens if your work is about communicating with patterns? 

Detail of Tapa Cloth
Preparation for "Alles Stroomt" in my backyard

Photo of two women wearing Tapa cloth

Mexican Self-portraits, Paper Litho, made with Emmy Dijkstra in Stockholm, August 2014

Salusalu (garlands) made of hibiscus (vau) fibre, Fiji, 2013

Jewelry out of paper, tape, wire and glue, by Emmy Dijkstra, 2013

When I visited the exhibitions "Chiefs & Governors, Art and Power in Fiji" and "Tapa: Barkcloth paintings from the Pacific" at the MAA, I was a little stressed. That evening I would start making my ricecarpets in the gallery to end and conclude the Cambridge Sustainability Residency. As most times my idea was not received with applause, what should I do? Shall I change it? Are they right?
A few days before one of my fellow residency participants returned from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. She was filled with workflow and a clear mind: "This inspires me! This is what I'm going to make!".
"I need some of that!", I thought. 
Processions were literally thrown at my face at the MAA. Not only that, the explanations in the exhibitions gave me the confidence that this is what I wanted to share and make my own. 
Here, in my work and in the, hopefully near, future. I came a little closer this year, and I'm looking forward to see what comes next!

Inspiring explanations filled the walls at the MAA

Unfortunately this bird wasn't a newly discovered species

In the back a Kula bird

And a headband decorated with the feathers of a Kula bird

Tapa cloth, windroos detail on the right



Stencil used to make patterns on the Tapa cloth

Fijian barkcloth stencilled with 37 motifs, from 1957

The sample 'Masi' was most likely ordered by G.K.Roth to show different patterns used on barkcloth

Detail from "The Journey" by Josua Toganivalu, 2009

Detail from "The Journey", painting about life as a journey


The edges of some of the Tapa cloths surprised me, I thought they were always straight


Like the fringes on the edges of a cloth, but maybe this has another reason or meaning