Waxing artistic: Batik exhibit

An intriguing and beautiful technique will soon be on show at Arteccentrix in a new exhibition that begins on Thursday, 6 January.

The featured artist is Robert McKendrick, an expert at batik, an evocative and historical art that produces some exceptional results.

“Batik is an ancient craft using a tool called a tjanting to apply hot wax to cloth as a resist. The cloth is then dyed and only the unwaxed areas take the dye. By repeating the process of dyeing, rinsing, drying and waxing, quite intricate designs can be produced.

“My subjects for batik are quite varied. They include landscapes, still life, buildings, flowers, plants, trees, interiors, fish, butterflies, corals and pure fantasy. Over 20 of my batiks will be in the exhibition. One of my stone (alabaster) sculptures and two of my clay pieces will also be on show,” he said.

McKendrick first became interested in the technique on a visit to Jamaica, where he met a Canadian couple in their workshop and showroom. As well as training helpers in the craft, they sold their designs to tourists. McKendrick said he was fascinated by the design of the Jamaican doctor bird, with its multitude of colours and long tail feathers – particularly because no two batiks are alike due to the cloth used, wax mix, temperature and even the temperament of the artist.

“On other trips abroad to Haiti, Java and Malaysia I had a chance to see traditional batik methods using both the tjanting and also the tjap, which is a wooden block with an intricate metal design embedded on one side, which can be dipped in hot wax and placed on cloth to create a design.”

Although his early efforts showed that the art was tricky, he said that persistence, serendipitous results and experimentation kept his interest, and after 40 years he still has not exhausted the possibilities of the medium.

Solo exhibition

Mr. McKendrick said that in ‘real life’ he was a chartered accountant but since the 1970s batik has been his main spare-time art medium. He arrived in Cayman in 1987 and spent some time as treasurer and committee member of the Visual Arts Society, as well as taking part in stone sculpture (alabaster) and clay workshops given by Leslie Bigelman, Pat Nicholson and Shirley Scott.

“I am excited about this show because it is the first time I have had enough pieces to put together a solo exhibition.

“I am very grateful to Nickola McCoy of Arteccentrix Gallery for all the encouragement and help she has provided to make this possible. The gallery is an ideal size for mounting a smaller exhibition such as mine, and being an artist herself, she knows instinctively how to present artwork in a perfect setting,” he said.

McKendrick’s show runs between Thursday, 6 January, and Friday, 14 January, at Arteccentrix Gallery in Governor’s Square.

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