Javanese transcultural landscapes through batik and other mediums
Compared with the remarkably rich and diverse depiction of landscape panoramas on narrative relief panels on Majapahit temples (candi), on wood and stone panels from several Islamic-era sites, and at the royal gardens, Javanese batik was usually not treated as a canvas upon which to depict landscapes panoramically. This talk looks at batik motifs connected with the depiction of place settings or as more abstract representations of natural phenomena in the wider context of Javanese conventions of landscapes in the arts.
It examines and compares expressions in literature and visual art in various mediums and discusses what studying Javanese batik can add to existing hypotheses on Javanese gardens and landscape conceptions. Batik compositional conventions will be compared with the carved geometric motifs that denote textile wall hangings on stone or brick candi, and their juxtaposition with the scenography of narrative relief panels and the decorative schema of architectural surfaces more generally.
Rather than see Javanese batik’s preference for repeated patterns over free-form drawing or panoramas as a missed opportunity, it might be more appropriate to view batik as being reserved for a different set of social and ritual needs. Batik motifs might provide analogies for care and order, pleasure, the cultivation of specific inner faculties, spiritual retreat, or contemplation of hidden meanings.
Besides seeing batik landscapes as culturally produced ways of seeing and ordering the world, batik may also be examined as a means of producing and constructing social, political, and economic hierarchies and distinctions. In this connection, important clues on the rare examples of old batik from Tuban and from Cirebon will also be discussed.
Dr Imran bin Tajudeen is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Malay Studies and the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore, where he teaches topics on identity and representation through the arts, urban history, and built cultural heritage in maritime Southeast Asia. He researches cultural encounters through arts and architecture across the longue durée, and examines the vernacular city and its heritage tropes. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies and a postdoctoral fellow at the IIAS, Leiden, and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT.
Lee Chor Lin, art historian and museum consultant, is curator of the exhibition Batik Kita: Dressing in Port Cities. She began her museum career in 1985 as a curator at the National Museum. She was senior curator at the Asian Civilisations Museum between 1993 and 2002, and director of the National Museum of Singapore between 2003 and 2013, during which she transformed the museum, influencing greatly the museum scene in Singapore. Lee was CEO of Arts House Limited (2013–16), which she set up for the National Arts Council, and which ran the Singapore International Festival of Arts. She was conferred Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France in 2009 and Cavaliere, Ordine della Stella d’Italia, by Italy in 2012.
Image: Dodot – ceremonial waist cloth (detail). Solo, around 1900 or earlier. ACM, T-0275
Lee Chor Lin: Photo by Tara Sosrowardoyo
Organised in conjunction with the exhibition