Annemarie Kipar: Homage to Batik

If you draw a parallel between the work of German-born textile artist Annemarie Kipar and the music scene, hers is like a record filled entirely with remakes of old songs. She acknowledges that sometimes it seems that all she has done is take antique fabric and outline the motifs in beads, sequins and stones. In some cases, that is exactly what she is doing, as seen in some of her pieces of vintage European tapestries where she has merely outlined or accented. In these cases, she is careful enough not to put her signature on them. "The fabric is already beautiful; I've contributed only a little, so I don't see why I should put my signature on it," Kipar said while displaying a collection of wall hangings, kimonos and bedspreads at Koi Restoran & Galeri in South Jakarta. But the rest of the collection is about cutting and piecing together parts of antique or new batik into wall hangings, embellishing them with sewn-on beads, sequins and stones, and finally creating a whole new piece of art. Like remaking classic hits, it takes skill not to ruin the original. In Kipar's case, she is quite successful in enhancing the beauty of batik, giving it new dimensions and color. Born in Dresden and spending a great deal of time in San Francisco, Kipar initially went to Bali to write a book some 12 years ago. The book has still not yet been published; instead, she fell in love with the island, and the batik, and decided to incorporate her love of fine jewelry into a series of wall hangings and bedcovers. Kipar has been living in Ubud, Bali, ever since. "I need the Balinese environment. My artistic temperament is touched by the place. I'm head over heels with batik," said Kipar, most of whose pieces are one-offs. She uses antique batik she purchases in Bali as well as Pekalongan, Madura and Cirebon. She then constructs the frame and enhances it with her large assortment of beads, crystal and semi-precious stones from different countries. She also works with fine ikat "because only fine ikat is good enough to be embroidered". One of the highlights of her work exhibited at Koi is a wall hanging made from five different pieces of ikat. Another is a piece of batik with a bird motif, with a series of sewn-on baubles, creating a three-dimensional effect. Once in a while, she restores the decaying silk of vintage Chinese and European tapestries, and recently developed an interest in chenille and chintz fabrics from Europe. Also in her collection are kimonos and jackets; some are from antique batik and others pashmina, which she also embroiders with beaded motifs.

Kipar says she has been berated before for "destroying" batik. "I'm not destroying it, I'm enhancing it. Batik is an art form, which should be perceived so." She said she was paying homage to batik and was not interested in doing her own batik. "The modern batik is still very interesting. What (Bali-based designer) Milo and Iwan Tirta have done is exciting. But that's not my interest. I'm busy already with what I do, there are still many things to be done," said Kipar, who will be in Jakarta until next Monday. Vintage batik is becoming rarer and rarer, Kipar said, given the fact that in Bali, when people are cremated, the fabric is also burned as well. Kipar has exhibited in Dresden as well as San Francisco and New York but, she says, she wants to exhibit more in Indonesia. "It's their thing; it should be appreciated more by Indonesians." A collection of Annemarie Kipar's works will be exhibited until Jan. 7 at Koi Restaurant & Gallery, Jl. Mahakam I/2, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. Tel. 7222864

Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post