Antonius Kho’s Travel Notes: the unified field or apparent paradox of divergent simultaneity
During our travels through the journey of life we all takes notes of one kind or another – often simply in our hearts, sometimes in written form or in the case of Antonius Kho in sketches.
For the last 10 years, Antonius Kho has been steadfastly devoted to organizing and participating in an astounding number of art exchanges with artists from 16 different countries (and counting) throughout South East Asia and beyond. Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Cambodia, Bangladesh, China, Madagascar, Reunion, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Bhutan, India and Mauritius are here represented though the lens of this accomplished artist who speaks of borders with great depth of feeling.
These independently organized art exchanges have been taking place between individual artists with a focus on sharing personal artistic, cultural and general life experiences for the simple purpose of enjoying both similarities and differences as a source of artistic inspiration.
After staying in each other’s homes, learning about each other’s specific social, cultural and environmental conditions and vision of them, the participating artists hold two group exhibitions; first in the host country and then in Indonesia.
These exhibitions are a testament to the tremendous wealth of talent found in these countries but perhaps more importantly they stand as a testament to the power of art to bring people together in their shared experience of love which both highlights and erases apparent differences.
These group exhibitions make both the differences and similarities of approaches to art found in each country clear by the contrast they provide and interestingly, this simultaneous highlighting and erasure of differences is aesthetically and conceptual pronounced within Antonius Kho’s own body of work.
Antonius Kho who was born in Klaten, central Java and went on to study in Bandung and then Germany where he raised his children before returning to Indonesia where he now resides. Kho has been journeying through life both metaphorically and quite literally since he was very young. Deeply feeling both the joys and sorrows of the fluidity and complexity of identity – how we view our place in the world, how others view us and the endless variations of how these intersect at any given time, Kho has developed a deep awareness of both the differences and similarities found amongst people of different places, backgrounds and experiences, a sharpened awareness of the different ways that people struggle as well as a deep compassion for the shared struggle of all humans to find beauty in the apparent chaos which he so poetically visualizes in his works.
As an artist Antonius Kho has been taking Travel Notes of all kinds throughout his life as a way to digest his experience of these complexities. These Travel Notes that all humans inscribe on their hearts, -in the case of Antonius Kho, have also taken the form of drawings or sketches since he first graduated from art school some 40 years ago.
These sketches of his surroundings started off as a pleasant way to practice his craft as a painter and over the years served as the basis for the creation of a truly masterful body of painted and sculpted works. These works speak of the very personal vision of his relationship to his surroundings and people he encounters but also to his heightened sense of emotional and social relations more broadly.
In more recent years these Travel Notes have been more literal in the sense that the sketches or transcriptions of his surroundings were created during the impressive number and scope of art exchanges mentioned above, and so also served as visual Travel Notes of the specific visual forms of the people and cultural expressions he encounters on this voyages.
These Travel Notes are not however simply a visual description of his experiences or of the places he visited but rather serve as a point of reference for his painted works that express the diversity and complexity of human interactions more generally with specific instances delivered to us through his interlocking lines and figures and multiplicity of perspectives within a unified visual space. These instances are not specific or bounded but instead invite us to feel the interconnectedness of all things – to feel the general though the specific or connectedness through separation.
The distinct headdresses of the court dancers of Thailand, the pronounced facial features of the people of Madagascar, the specific costumes and makeup of Chinese Opera performers, the ornate temples of Cambodia, the puppet dance of Laos and countless other visual cues can be seen in this collection of recent works. However, while these visual cues hold their own beauty, depth of meaning and potential reading as specific cultural markers, what is perhaps more interesting to note is how Kho uses these as a kind of celebration of the diversity of artistic and cultural expression he has encountered rather than as descriptive expressions of them.
The travel Notes that Kho took throughout these journeys, though certainly inspired by the specific places and people he visited, are clearly rendered in a way that reaches beyond the local speaking to a wider range of concepts and feelings. Amongst the many ideas indirectly expressed in these works are: the globalized world and how this affects our possibility for communication with people in disparate localities, how such interactions shape how we see our place in the world and point to the many ways we interact with one and other, the historic social and cultural influences between South-East Asian countries specifically but Asia and the world more broadly and the ongoing creation and recreation of identity and our feelings about this.
It is also interesting to note that although the works of Travel Notes clearly reference the vastly different places Kho has visited in these art exchanges, his attention to the human figure – not as simply an aesthetic form but as a representation of the separation experienced by humans as distinct entities and the endless variations of ways that we interact with one and other emotionally, there is a clear and pronounced similarity amongst all these works, a sameness that one could say expresses the divine nature that we all share. This divine nature or simply creative power of love takes endless forms yet remains cohesive and is experienced though the human heart in ways that we can all relate to.
This exhibition is simultaneously a visual record of the places Anotnius Kho has travelled to over the last ten years, and a kind of visual record of the human experience more generally. With powerfully expressive facial expressions yet uncertainty of boundaries, relations and interactions, with larger figures comprised of numerous smaller ones and boundaries between figures joined though complex line interwoven lines, we are faced with a chaotic rendering of unstable beings which nonetheless yield a harmonious composition that brings to mind ancient textiles with all their socially ascribed meaning and visual beauty.
Kho’s use of soft natural colors and simple sincerity to express the complexity of human experiences, and social conditions invites us to embrace these complexities with the knowing that there is a larger, deeper and all encompassing whole that is at the root of it all, an invitation to use our own Travel Notes to express the knowing that we are all love.