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Nia Fliam, born and raised in Colorado, moved to New York City to pursue art studies. She studied at the Pratt Institute, where she became interested in African batik. When Nia heard of the rich traditions of batik in Java, she began to research that, which led her to Java. Arriving in Indonesia in 1983, she began her study of batik with various batik artists.
Nia met Agus Ismoyo in Yogya in 1985. Very soon after that they began to develop their partnership, which lead to marriage and the establishment of the batik studio Brahma Tirta Sari. They took to the roots of the Javanese batik tradition to continue its essence in a contemporary spirit. This search involved throughly grounding themselves in the aesthetics of Javanese batik as well as an intensive, ongoing research into traditional Javanese Kejawen philosopy of which batik is the most profound visual expression.
This research has given birth to a form of batik art which is in their own style while maintaining a deep respect for that which has preceeded them. Ismoyo and Nia have never felt that they were borrowing from traditional motifs, but rather continuing and preserving the essence of the motifs themselves. According to them, batik with all its manifold aspects, is a living tradition. They have layer by layer reached for the essence of the creative process which has resulted in the sacred motifs based on the philosophy "kapti kerdating sukma" ("work that has been created by vibration from the soul"). Ismoyo and Nia approach their work by holding as their ideal the way of the "empu" batik maker (a Javanese term for a master who has excellent technical skills, deep philosophical grounding and expert skills in meditative practice) would have approached the creation of sacred motifs. As the present situation is different from the time sacred motifs were created many centuries ago, they feel the motifs need not take the same form. This is the way Ismoyo and Nia attempt to preserve the tradition of batik. They are not tied to a physical form, but attempt to find the spirit of each of the sacred motifs.
Sometime ago in their attempt to understand these traditional motifs, they realized they must find a process that is not just about individual creativity but a collaborative process. They create their fine art pieces and produce their commercial cloth with the help of more than 25 other members of their studio. While having mastered the conventional technique of batik they also work with forms of 'cap' (copper stamps used to appy the way) and hand batik. They do not feel in anyway as though they are limited by the nature of the technique of batik.
In 1994 Ismoyo and Nia opened up their research into symbolic meanings, traditional art making and contemporary art versions of these in new contexts, to collaborations with several groups around the world. This journey has taken them to Australia, America and Africa. In 2005 they worked with artists in Mali and Nigeria, bringing Nia's journey from her original interest in batik full circle. During the 2007-2008 school year, they were at the Given Frostic School of Art as Fulbright artists in residence.
In 2004 they were awarded the Seal of Excellence by UNESCO/AHPHADA for superior crafts. Ismoyo and Nia have exhibited their work in Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa and the United States.
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