Kayu – Lucie Fontaine’s branch in Bali, Indonesia – is pleased to present its third project “Basa Walikan Batik Transcriptions,” a solo exhibition by Romanian artist Radu Comsa.
Radu Comsa (1975, Cluj-Napoca, Romania) sees the art object as a form of intellectual replica of his own design of thoughts. He merges divagations, extractions, and references into “transcriptions” – from one material to another, from one shape to another, from one conceptual frame to another – conceptualizing the notions of “painting overall” and “expanded painting.” His paintings are nomadic figures constantly moving from different contexts, structures, frames, and surfaces, which the artist integrates into the given environment through a complex relationship between art and life.
Following Kayu’s vision, Radu Comsa decided to integrate his artistic practice within the Indonesian context: the title of the exhibition refers to one of Indonesian language registers, the Basa Walikan* [‘reverse language’] from Yogyakarta, which is based on the ngoko** level of Javanese language. Its words come from a formula that is based on the Javanese script hanacaraka, an Indic typescript composed by twenty symbols. Each symbol conveys a syllable that consists of a consonant and the vowel “a,” which can change through the use of additional signs. This twenty-symbol alphabet is usually arranged in four horizontal lines, each line containing five consonant-vowel (CV) pairs. Basa Walikan words are formed regularly from ngoko words by moving each CV pair in a word two lines vertically. Line 1 switches with line 3 and line 2 switches with line 4. The original consonant in each CV pair is replaced by the new consonant, but the vowel – or lack thereof – does not change.
The result of Comsa’s exploration of the Basa Walikan language is the creation of seven new “transcriptions,” which the artist translated into his fabric-paintings and consequently sewn to sun chairs. Produced in collaboration with the Bali-based Italian brand, Quarzia***, which works with Indonesian artisans, these seven fabric- paintings are consequently transcribed into batik.
Batik is a word that refers to either the technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth or to cloths made through this very same technique. It is made either by drawing dots and lines of the resist with a spouted tool called “canting” or by printing the resist with a copper stamp called “cap.” The applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to colour selectively by soaking the cloth in one colour, removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating if multiple colours are desired. In Indonesia the batik has diverse patterns, which mostly are symbolic and influenced by a variety of cultures; due to the routes of Dutch colonizers, this technique – and its multiple variations – became very popular in West Africa and then – through various waves of immigration – it became part of cosmopolitan fashion trends in cities like London.
Displayed in Kayu’s antique joglo, Radu Comsa’s artworks are choreographed in order to create an inquisitive environment where codes, shapes and materials collide and interlace into continuous dialogues between art, language and culture that prompt further questions and explorations.
“Basa Walikan Batik Transcriptions,” will be on view from September 3 to October 3, 2015. If you need further information you can either contact Lucie Fontaine’s employee in Bali through the email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect through its website www.kayu-luciefontaine.com
* The origin and current status of Basa Walikan Yogyakarta is surrounded by popular legends. One of them describes Basa Walikan as a secret language that was created by young Javanese nationalists during the 1940s. It is said that young patriots used Basa Walikan in order communicate without being discovered by the Javanese- speaking Dutch government officials. It is also said that Basa Walikan was created for secret communications among local criminals in the 1970s and 1980s
** Ngoko is the Javanese informal speech, used between friends and close relatives. It is also used by people of higher statuses – such as elders and bosses – addressing those of lower status – such as young people and workplace subordinates.
*** Founded in 2004, Quarzia is a Bali-based Italian brand specialized in contemporary clothing that are produced through the employment of traditional Indonesian batik dyeing techniques carefully handmade by skilled artisans.