Tue, 23 Aug 1994

Annemarie works to enhance batik

By Linda Owens

JAKARTA (JP): Step inside Cemara 6 Gallery in Central Jakarta, and you'll swear you've walked right into a palace reception hall.

The glow of bright, mosaic-like colors stud nearly every square inch of wall space while the German-born Annemarie Kipar's enthusiasm leaps out in sparks and flashes, exactly like her jeweled batik tapestries currently on display here.

The best term to describe Annemarie is "renaissance woman". Her academic background is impressive in itself: French Literature at Lausanne, English Literature at Cambridge and Art History at Berkeley. Before sojourning to Bali three years ago, she designed, built and operated the famous "Annemarie's", an elegant San Francisco restaurant featuring French cuisine.

Planning to write a book, she settled in Ubud, and soon discovered Indonesia's rich batik tradition. She began to collect antique pieces from Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Pekalongan, Cirebon, Lasem, and Indramayu, among others. The fact that the batik designers not only created an object to delight the eye through harmonious composition of shapes and colors, but also endowed them with motifs conveying messages closely related to their own philosophy of life fascinated her.

Some of these motifs were traditionally associated with specific occasions, such as weddings, childbirth, or funerals, and others for specific purposes, like warding off danger or restoring a sick person to health. Still others, however, simply expressed the sheer beauty of flowers, birds and butterflies.

Annemarie began to cut and piece together sections of antique and new batik and composed them into wall tapestries, standing screens, bed covers and kimonos. What sets her art apart is the way she enhances its beauty with beads, sequins and stones from her vast collection. Some shapes she merely outlines or accents, while others are filled with densely packed rows of sewn-on baubles, giving them dimension and creating new patterns. Occasionally she adds highlights of gold or silver paint.

Though some of her pieces are quite heavily encrusted, she says it is never her intention to overpower the batik, but to enhance its beauty. Some of the pieces are so old, she says, it's hard to bring herself to cut them sometimes and therefore does it with reverence. Some pieces she keeps whole, obviously sensing the symbolic significance they contain. The symbolism is what she wishes to bring to life with her art.

Annemarie claims her ability at needlework is something she learned at her mother's knee. Recalling her childhood in World War II Dresden, she reminisced about how her mother once took a discarded jacket, embellished it with beadwork and lined it with run silk stockings, transforming it from a scratchy postman's uniform into a fantastic coat of many colors for her.

Gustav Klimt

The centuries-old artform has taken on a unique and personal interpretation in Annemarie's hands. Her work recalls the shimmering, iridescent colors and intricate detail of the symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, from whom she says she gained inspiration.

Indonesia in general, and batik in particular, have always welcomed new influences and interpretations. Throughout history, Indonesia's strategic location has occasioned a lively exchange in a variety of goods and ideas from abroad. Foreign art and culture, from Chinese-Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Islam have influenced and fused with the indigenous cultures, resulting in new works of art with their own unique beauty.

Annemarie admits she has learned a great deal about Asian sense of color, form, and detail from the many expert beaders who have helped her works take shape. She rarely gives them specific directions as to how a particular piece of batik should be worked. The result, she says, though different from color choices she might come up with, are often surprisingly pleasant. Over time, she has come to implicitly trust their work and owes a measure of her success to them. The tapestries she beads herself are quite different from those of her Indonesian counterparts. Both are sumptuous, yet Annemarie's palette is more subdued and elegant than the sometimes wild, yet strangely congruous color mixtures that emerge in her collaborative works.

Although the writing project that originally brought Annemarie to Indonesia is nearing completion, she just may have begun on a new endeavor that will absorb her far into the future.

Her next idea is beaded batik sarongs. If the minor problem of beads popping off when you sit down can be solved, she says they just might catch on. One gets the definite sense that with her creativity and determination, she'll find a way.

Annemarie Kipar's jeweled batik tapestries will be on display at Cemara 6 Gallery Cafe through Sept. 10. The public is invited to attend an open house, and meet the artist herself, at the gallery on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 7:00 p.m.