Malaysian artist Fatimah Chik, known for her pioneering batik work, dies aged 75

Batik and textile artist Fatimah Chik, who died on May 26, has left an indelible mark in the art and fashion scene in Malaysia. Photo: Galeri Puteh

Fatimah Chik, a celebrated Malaysian artist, educator and mentor, who enjoyed a long career that bridged the worlds of fine art and fashion design, died of a heart condition today (May 26) at the Sungai Buloh Hospital in Selangor. She was 75.

The National Art Gallery and Galeri Khazanah also announced her passing on their social media.

Born in the coastal town of Pontian, Johor in 1947, Fatimah had a keen eye for art at a young age. Artistic inspiration came from her family, with her mother skilled in embroidery and tailoring traditional Malay clothing, while her grandfather was a traditional house builder and woodcarver.

Throughout a more than 40-year career, Fatimah captured the imagination with ornate textile and motif traditions harvested from the South-East Asian (or Nusantara) region, which translated spectacularly in her batik paintings.

The diminutive artist, known for the meticulous efforts she put into each of her art works, began her way into the art world as a textile design student in 1968 at the School of Art and Design, MARA Institute of Technology (now UiTM).

Graduating in 1971 - a time when local artists were being encouraged to rediscover artistic heritage linked to Malay and Nusantara culture - Fatimah delved into the age-old art of batik. Working as a batik designer, she picked up the tricks of dyeing, printing and designing.

She was also married to artist-writer Redza Piyadasa (1939-2007), her former art history lecturer and accompanied him to Hawai in 1974 where she began researching textile traditions that would influence her work. Later, she also visited batik centres in Indonesia, adding on to her knowledge of indigenous and Nusantara art and design.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, her abstract works, which were richly textured, found their way into group exhibitions, where she showcased batik, Shibori, screen print, and textile art.

Fatimah’s progressive attitude towards the potential of the medium extended the parameters of batik art.

As an artist and art lecturer, Fatimah developed a unique style of abstract painting and technique that remains significant today. Her was a creative style that employed traditional printing blocks used in batik printing technique, complex waxing and dyeing processes, as well as meticulous hand-coloured finishing.

In the visual art scene, her works stood apart from first-generation batik artists who focused on images of landscapes.

Abstract in style, Fatimah's paintings - like the massive Collage Series I (1999) - featured the "gunungan", an ancient triangular motif used in South-East Asia, while works like Dinihari Nusantara (2002) featured the mandala, the symbolic circular motif found in Buddhist art.

Beyond the canvas, Fatimah was also an art educator at her alma mater and later at the Malaysian Institute of Art. She also served as a member of the judging panel for the Piala Seri Endon batik competitions.

In 2015, she debuted the "Fatimah Chik Collection" on the catwalk at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week, with her batik art printed on clothes, accessories and tableware.

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Fatimah Chik , artist , death , batik , Malaysia , fashion


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