Saturday, May 16, 2015

Historical Israeli Batik ArtWorks[1-2]
Art Quilts

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Batik is a method of printing on cloth using a wax resist to control dyeing in controlled areas. One or more colors can be used, making possible many exotic designs and color combinations on cloth. Batik may be used in fine-art, to decorate clothing, wall hangings or to decorate anything made from cloth.

Els van Baarle, Nothing Is The Same (full view).
Technique: Batik, dyed, silkscreened, discharchged, stitched on cotton velvet.
Size of each artwork: 60 cm (width) x 350 cm (length).

Relatively few materials and tools are needed to produce batik articles. The basic components required are fabric, wax, dye and applicators (such as brushes or tjanting tools), and containers for dyes and waxes.

Tjanting tools (pronounced – “chantin”) used in making batik items.

The choice of fabric for batik is important. The material should be firm and smoothly woven, not coarse or with a pile. A thin cotton fabric, such as a bed sheet works well. Silk, linen and wool are also good materials. White cloth produces the most vivid colors, but a light pastel sometimes gives pleasing results. New materials should be washed and ironed to remove the sizing which is in all new cloth.

Textured, hand-painted batik paper lanterns.

Wax is as an important a component as the cloth for a batik project. Generally waxes such as soy or a mixture of 50% paraffin and 50% bees wax are often used. The wax is normally heated to between 300 and 350oF (149 to 176oC) on an electric hot plate. As wax is highly inflammable a box of baking soda is kept nearby to extinguish an accidental fire.

Hot batik wax ready to be applied.

Several different types of dyes are available for this technique. Generally, beginners use a multi-purpose or liquid instant dye that is readily available from most craft stores. These dyes are produced in a broad range of colors and will work on most fabrics. However, they have one disadvantage in that they have limited color-fastness.

Generally, cold-water dyes called “fiber reactive” dyes are employed. They have good color-fastness and so will withstand repeated washing. They are available in many colors but can only be used with natural fiber materials such as cotton, linen, jute and satin.

Dharma Trading Co. have an excellent tutorial titled - Batik Basics with Fiber Reactive Dyes.

The wax designs may be applied using a brush, tjanting or stamp tool. Brushes come in a range of different sizes, depending on the fineness of the design. The tjanting tool has a handle, reservoir and a small spout that enables a thin stream of wax to be poured from the tool to make fine lines and other delicate details. Batik stamps can be made from found or built objects. Brush and tjanting batik is usually performed with the material tightly stretched in a frame.

Horses gallop across fields as first waxing of a batik on a stretch frame - see Carol Law Conklin post.

Historical Israeli Batik ArtWorks
In the discoveries of the earliest civilizations there are traces of cloth that not only had functional use, but also served to decorate drab surroundings. To distinguish and set apart one’s clan or tribe or to introduce unique character into a household is not a modern idea, but rather a historical endeavor. At the dawn of the modern Israeli society the influx of new immigrants witness the introduction of wide ranging textile techniques such as batik that freely intermingled with more traditional Israeli textile modes that survived since ancient times.

Early Israeli batik on cloth was very narrative in the sense of depicting a story of sorts in a traditional folk art mode. This is in particular evident in the work of Laetitia Yalon. Later works became more symbolic within an expressionistic framework in design - see the wood and paper batik of Siona Shimshi.

Below is a small vignette of some historical Israeli batik artworks.

Shulamit Litan
Shulamit Litan is a Polish-Israeli textile designer, quilter and paper artist. She was born in Poland in 1924 but immigrated to Israel in 1936 with her parents. In the fifties she studied painting and weaving and in the course of her artistic journey, investigated many other media. After many years of creativity in textile media, she discovered paper-art as a fascinating new way of expression, acquiring skills which enabled her to develop her own personal techniques such as the use of shibori methods to create moulds for paper casts. She exhibited actively until only a few years ago.

Her work revealed an ongoing dialogue with the natural environment around her, the seasons of the year, reflecting memories and reminiscences a well as the here and now. She passed away on 7th May, 2011.

Shulamit Litan, hand-quilted batik on silk.
Quote from Psalms 122:6
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
they shall prosper that love thee.”

Laetitia Yalon
Laetitia Yalon comes from a Jewish family who emigrated in 1932 from Berlin to Granada and Spain. Two years later the family moved to Ibiza where Laetitia was born. In 1944 her father, a politically engaged activist, went to fight alongside the republican army in the Spanish Civil War but he was caught by the Nazis as he was trying to escape across the Pyrenees. He was deported to Auschwitz and killed.

Laetitia Yalon.

Her mother was a well-known explorer, travelling constantly around the world.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

At home she was always surrounded by poets and artists and as a child she met celebrities such as Cezanne and Yves Klein. As a young woman she followed her mother's footsteps and travelled extensively to many countries. At this time she began writing poetry and performing, as well as making jewellery and painting to make some money.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

In Paris she was involved with the "Beat Generation" and was friend of the poet Allen Ginsberg. She also met Axel Jensen and Leonard Cohen while she was in Hydra making ceramics.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

After a traumatic experience she moved to Israel, where she lived for a long period (1964-1971) in the artists village Ein-Hod, near Haifa. There she started making wax paintings (see below) and was recognized as “State Artist of Israel”.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

At the age of 40 she moved to Belgium where she concentrated her artistic practice in performance art. Together with an artists’ collective she founded the Stalker Arts Center, organizing performance and art events. She has collaborated with other artists such as Ideal Standard, Mauricio Kagel, Philippe Marranne and Jan Fabre. She was also a member of the “Non-existent Gallery” group, an alternative performance art venue where artists came together to experiment and develop works, but without inviting an audience or registering the results. She also performed with the group Factor 44 and the Patacycliste.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

More than just conventional performances, the works of Laetitia Yalon are free, spontaneous and ephemeral actions that remain unregistered, like the performances in the “Non-existent Gallery”.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

Batik made by Laetitia Yalon.

Siona Shimshi
Siona Shimshi was born in Tel Aviv in 1939 of Lithuanian parents. Siona studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tel Aviv and at Alfred University and Greenwich House Pottery in New York. She has worked as a painter, sculptor, and ceramist as well as a textile designer. In the latter capacity she has created carpets, batik and religious objects. She has shown her work in group and one person shows in New York, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Paris.

Siona Shimshi in her studio working on artwork.

In 1965, she was a co-founder of a group of artists called the "10+ Group" along with artists Buky Schwartz, Raffi Lavie and others.

Shimshi was head of the Ceramic Design Department and taught as a professor at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, from 1979–87. In 1979, she designed the set for a performance of "A Simple Story" by Shmuel Yosef Agnon for the Habimah Theater in Tel Aviv.

Siona Shimshi's wooden batik.

In 1993–94, she was the curator of an exhibition of Dora Gad, in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Among her creations are a work in wood that is exhibited in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, a wall hanging at the Tel Aviv Hilton, a 1998 sculpture for Israel's 50th anniversary that is exhibited in Holon, glass walls at Kennedy Airport in New York City, and a 2004 portrait painting of Natan Alterman that appears on the facade of Tel Aviv City Hall.

Siona Shimshi's paper batik - detailed view.

Shimshi was awarded the 1988 Arie El Hanani Prize by the Joshua Rabinowitz Foundation for Arts, for her sculpture in Goren Goldstein Park in Tel Aviv. In 2005 she was voted the 197th-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet to determine whom the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.

[1] R. Dayan and W. Feinberg, Crafts of Israel, MacMillian Publishing Co. Inc., New York (1974).
[2] C. E. Kicklighter and R. J. Baird, Crafts, The GoodHeat-Willcox Company Inc., South Holland (1986).

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