The "Baron of Batik", Pak Sarkasi Said (b.1940), who goes by the name Tzee is Singapore’s most famous batik painter. Pak Sarkasi uses a modern adaptation of Indonesia’s traditional batik textile art of dyes and wax. Pak Sarkasi was inspired to adopt this technique after visiting the exhibition of an Italian artist at Raffles Hotel. The artist had applied this technique to his paintings much to Pak Sarkasi’s surprise as it is an Asian medium. Experimenting with different dyes, Pak Sarkasi uses the canting which is a traditional wax container with a spout which he uses to draw on the fabrics.
As batik art has special significance in Malay culture, Pak Sarkasi travelled to Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia to understudy eminent exponents of this traditional art handed down over generations. His sojourn in Indonesia included time spent at his grandparent’s hometown of Karang Malang. Pak Sarkasi studied batik art under the tutelage of Pak Aznam Effendy, a painter and teacher at Yayasan Akademi Senipura Nasional in Jakarta.
Pak Sarkasi rose to fame in the 1970’s when the National Trade Union Congress of Singapore was seeking a design that could be representative of Singapore. His portrayal of the Singapore orchid was selected and he moved on to batik art on shirts, dresses, scarves, etc. which were worn with pride by many Singaporeans. In May 2003, Pak Sarkasi set a Guiness World Record for the world’s longest batik painting of 103.9 metre long batik artwork.
In recognition of Pak Sarkasi’s stature as an eminent batik artist, The National University of Singapore Museum held a solo exhibition in 2017 of his batik art comprising several monumental abstract batik paintings. Titled “Always Moving”: The Batik Art of Sarkasi Said, the exhibition was extended to 2018 owing to the overwhelming response to view the genius of a Singapore icon and national treasure
Pak Sarkasi has exhibited in Singapore and abroad. His works are collected by many including The Singapore Art Museum, National University Museum, CapitaLand, President SR Nathan and other eminent private and corporate collectors.
Pak Sarkasi Said was awarded The Cultural Medallion in December 2020 by the President of Singapore H.E. Halimah Yacob in recognition of his high standing as a Singapore artist.