Birmingham Botanical Garden in Batik Art

Birmingham Botanical Garden

In 2021, I left my home country, Malaysia, and landed in Birmingham. Trained as an Architect myself, I am always in awe at the rich heritage and culture that Birmingham has to offer, from the vibrant architecture to its unique Street Art dotted around the city. But what made me feel right at home, is the people of Birmingham. You will always see a smile as you walk along the canal or street.

Since moving to Birmingham, I also moved from architecture into traditional art. Batik is a historic Malaysian artform that uses a combination of wax and dyes on fabric to create beautiful patterns and images. In my art, I put a modern spin on these traditional techniques, in order to bring batik to a new audience.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to know what the people of Birmingham have to say about their city. So I created an art-piece that captures both the local architecture and the thoughts of the people of Birmingham. This art-piece features a “lantern” inspired by the dramatic architecture of the Palm House within the Botanical Garden, designed in 1871 by local architect, F.B. Osbourne, which is surrounded by flowers, plants and trees found in the garden.

In early September of this year, I collaborated with Great Western Arcade and together we hosted a live batik making session to introduce traditional art and heritage. During the event, guests were invited to etch their thoughts & hopes for Birmingham using wax-resist batik techniques onto this artwork. The final art-piece features these feelings as golden words that appear to glow through the “lantern”, just in the same way that Chinese sky lanterns (or “tanglong”) are emblazoned with well wishes so that hopes and dreams are taken up into the sky.

“Spicy”, “New Beginning”, “Diverse”, “Bad Traffic”, “Family”, “History”, “Rain”, “Pub”, “Vibrant”, “Inclusive”. These are just some of the words waxed by the people who came to the event. Good and bad, looking forward and back, a view on Birmingham as both a city and as a culture is formed. I am proud to be able to bring these thoughts to light with my art.

The greater meaning behind this collaborative art-piece is more than just its visual impact, but also the art techniques used to produce this art-piece that are adopted from a diverse South-East Asian heritage. By employing these diverse methods, I hope to mirror the diverse make-up of Birmingham. I look to the past to connect with my heritage, and I look to the future to build a better world for tomorrow, just as this city prides itself upon.
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