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BATIK ART BY JONATHAN S. EVANS
Confessions of an Itinerant Batik Artist

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BARCELONA, BATIK AND BABIES

 

 

In the Spring of 1972, it looked as if the Batik gods were smiling upon us. We had a small stall in Barcelona's 'BlueJean' Market where a young friend sold clothes for us. The work was definitely improving too and we were batiking some lovely long dresses. We had met Sr. Pepe Gancedo who owned a series of huge textile stores throughout Spain and who was somewhat of a batik expert. He loved our work, had never seen anything like it and wanted to stage a big exhibition of our work as soon as possible. He planned a big opening at his main shop in Madrid and ordered a large number of wall hangings from us. Until this point we had only made clothes and this was clearly our chance to move into the art market in Spain. We went into production at once. After a lot of effort, we came up with a series of original and not so original designs. We decided to recreate some classic Japanese wood block prints, like Hokusai's 'Wave', a couple of beautiful atmospheric works by Hiroshige and a print with figures by Utamaro. I drew a series of rather Japanese-style flower studies which I've always loved to batik.

These days, if I have a strong drawing, however complex, I generally have no trouble in figuring out how to realize it. But in those early days, each design presented an enormously complex problem. In retrospect, Marie Luz and I were not quite ready yet to come up with an entire series of batik paintings but we certainly learned an incredible amount about the process in those months leading up to that first show at Gancedo's. We had some very tense and desperate times during that period too, for MarieLuz's husband was making life as unpleasant for her as possible. She had no rights over her children whatsoever and was having difficulty in even seeing them. But we managed to complete some thirty pieces on schedule and were well paid for our efforts. For the first time we started to sign our work with the initials of our two surnames, Diego and Evans, DE.

For the opening of the show which was a very big affair, we were flown to Madrid and put up in an expensive hotel with full room service. World domination seemed but a tiny step away. But success can be very illusionary and the show itself didn't sell as well as Sr. Gancedo had expected. All I can remember is that we both had terrible headaches from tension and neither of us could speak the evening of the opening. Very dispirited, we flew back to Barcelona the next morning and went back to the dark corridor-studio and the all-pervasive waxy fumes without being too corrupted by fame and fortune. That first Batik show was restaged later that year in Barcelona where it sold much better but by that time we had moved on to the next project.

I remember that we did get a wonderful vacation out of it however. Marie Luz's ex. had packed his two oldest daughters, Marta and Maita off to Dublin, Ireland. It was the next step in the terrible war that he was waging against Marie Luz and he intended to make it impossible for her to see her daughters. We flew to England, saw my mother and father and visited old friends outside Oxford. Then we showed up suddenly in Dublin where we spirited the girls off for a few days of fun. From being penniless, struggling artists, we were suddenly on a roll of sorts and able to indulge our love of traveling. Actually maybe it wasn't all fun. I do remember having to literally leave a cinema in Dublin just as the credits for "Woodstock the Movie of Peace, Love and Good Vibes" came rolling up and we had to exit our hotel twice in one week due to IRA bomb telephone scares. The third time it happened, we just stayed in the restaurant, went on eating our breakfast and I lived to tell the tale.

 

For the following two years we lived mostly in Barcelona as poor Marie Luz hung onto her children as much as her vengeful husband would let her. At this stage their ages ranged from five to fifteen and I remember it as a very stressful period when I was obsessed with my work. I was in love with a woman who could only give a small part of herself to me. I understood that the children would always come first and maintained my equilibrium by going to Ibiza and Mi Casita whenever I got the chance. I soon learned to speak fluent Spanish with an English accent and also how to get a good night's sleep in the big butaca armchairs which one got as third class accommodation on the deck of the ferryboat. Sometimes Marie Luz would come with me and we'd rent a cabin for privacy. Often collapsing from exhaustion, we would sleep our way over to the island.

We came up with a new collection of paintings for our show at a Catalan gallery called Gall Galeret in Barcelona in 1973 and had a big show at 'The Owl and Pussycat' Gallery in Santa Eulalia, Ibiza the following year. But by then, Gwyn had opened a shop in Ibiza and we wanted to come back to the island to live.

 

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