The emancipation of Batik into Fine Art .

Batik is a technique , traditionally used to produce decorative patterns on fabric . As such it was brought to perfection in Indonesia , on the isle of Java , around the end of the 19th century . At that time it had an impact on the Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe , especially in Holland , where the socalled ´Amsterdamsche School´ used it in interior design. Nowadays the wax-resist technique is developed in a more autonomous way , although it has still a strong crafts connotation. It is typical for Batik in general , that the wax is used during the dying process ,but is not important for the material condition of the end-result . It is washed out thoroughly .

In another technique , called ´Encaustique ´ , already known from the Fayoum portraits of ancient Egypt , the wax is an enduring and stable component of the artwork itself . It has a tactile quality of its own , probably the reason why Encaustique was rediscovered in 20th century modern art . Jasper Johns used coloured wax in his famous American Flag paintings of the early sixties .

Batik is today also emancipating towards Fine Art .

An important contribution to this emancipation are the ´Wax-resist Paintings ´ by Hetty van Boekhout . She uses all kinds of dying and bleaching Batik-methods on paper , but not on textile . The use of paper is quite important , as it puts her work in the context of Art . As the material quality , the tactile qualities of the artwork are of prime importance for her , she doesn´t remove the wax , but keeps it for it´s
own sake , as in encaustic paintings . Although she makes obviously use of wax-resist dyes , instead of paint , her work can easily be called ´Wax-Paintings ´ , instead of ´Wax-resist Paintings ´ .

Another aspect which puts her work firmly in an Art tradition , is the way she introduces collage in Batik . Collage is of course , from Kurt Schwitters to Rauchenberg , a venerable modernist method to smuggle object-reality into Art .

Hetty van Boekhout does something different . She transforms by collage in wax , her own bits and pieces of raw batik textures and patterns , a chaos of informal shapes , into a dynamic , spatial world , based on aesthetic laws . She doesn´t incorporate found objects in the work , as most collage and assemblage artists do , but she creates an abstract universe ,waxing together the results of fundamental batik procedures .

This opens up new perspectives for an age-old technique , often linked up with it´s crafts background . But it also gives new vigour to Informal Art , with different means , normally not used in Art .

Hetty van Boekhout ads something new to an ´Art Autre ´ , that Tapies and others started half a century ago .

franck gribling