Sandy Orsten’s unique batik artwork was proudly displayed on the walls of Pynelogs Art Gallery from May 12 to 24. His art provided guests with a taste of an artistic culture oceans away.
Batik art comes from Indonesia originally, but is practiced throughout Asia. It is an intricate, skilled craft that requires steady hands and confidence.
“Basically, you create lines and borders using hot wax, which seals whatever colour of dye you use inside,” Orsten said. “But, if there is a break in the wax, the dye will seep out.”
Orsten was introduced to batiking while teaching math in Singapore. The teachers at his school got to take batiking classes, but he had to do origami with the students. It wasn’t until a departing teacher offered him her tools that he got to try it out.
“I was just playing and started off with flowers and thought that I had to do something more interesting, so I started doing landscapes,” Orsten said. “It was probably the motivation of seeing these guys in Singapore doing amazing paintings on silk with dyes.”
Orsten, a long-time math teacher from Calgary, has only been making batik art seriously for seven years. In that time, his work has evolved and gained popularity.
“I think I am semi-successful at this point,” Orsten said. “I now have a good variety of topics, whether it is people, plants or geometry. I succeed sometimes and I fail other times.”
Over the last few years, Orsten has been showcasing his work in expositions and galleries around Alberta and B.C. He said even though he sells his art, it does not feel like a job. Instead, it is the perfect retirement activity.
“It is not as if I am feeding my family with my paintings, but I am enjoying it,” Orsten said. “It is not about sales. It is about exposure.”
His collection at Pynelogs sold well in general, but the paintings that depict human characters were particularly popular.
“There is a cultural connection there, whether it is the clothing, scene or location,” Orsten said. “People like paintings that transport them somewhere by showing them a different way of life.”
Orsten said his Pynelogs debut was a proud highlight to his artistic career. His work was displayed along with that of other accomplished artists from the area.
“I would not bring anything here if I did not think I did a good job,” Orsten said. “I am thinking as I look around at the work that I have brought to represent my art that some of it is reasonable and some of it is pretty good. You cannot be a slouch to be invited to this show. It is a beautiful venue and the work shows so well.”
Moving forward, Orsten said he will keep looking for new opportunities to showcase his art as he continues to progress as an artist.
“This is my contribution to the art world, but it is also my contribution to my life,” Orsten said. “It gives me something I can look forward to doing.”