The eyes are the source of what is essential to Antonius Kho: the “inner eye” of man, the independent and unadulterated view of the mask.
Antonius Kho paints and carves masks that look at us as we look at them. In these music like compositions, we see bright color surfaces in high contrast that give away to white spots that light up the image. A closer look reveals that the white spots are always accompanied by a black spot that form eyes looking back at us. We also discover elongated solid color areas formed into say, a nose,and then here and there a red mouth flashes out at us from the color maze. Once we are adjusted to the image, we wee the black and white eyes everywhere, emerging like cat eyes in the night. Why, one might ask is there always this one topic: “masks” and this one design : “eyes” ?
Antonius Kho was born on in Klaten in central Java, Indonesia, in 1958, to parents of Indonesian and Chinese decent. In Indonesia, Chinese are often viewed with a certain distance, almost like strangers. Like most Chinese, Kho’s family followed Buddhist and Taoist religious traditions, although his mother converted to Christianity. The Javanese environment is Islamic, but also influenced by the ancient religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, that had a huge impact on the cultural and religious life of Java several centuries ago and continue to inform it to this day.
In May of 1998, longtime Indonesian President Suharto, who had ruled the country for over 30 years with dictatorial hardness, came under pressure from the people, and so began the era known as “reformasi” (reformation). But for Chinese Indonesians this meant perilous times and so in 1999 Antonius Kho left his family to go to Germany. During his first months in Germany he hardly painted, In September 1999 his started to create his first images that spoke of his experiences during the political upheaval of Indonesia and of his impressions of Germany.
But despite all the changes the images remained the same: masks. The mask is a frozen face. People’s faces are also facades that hide what is really behind it, much like in the Javanese “Wayang Kulit” shadow plays. On the screen we watch episodes made of shadows that move us to tears or make us laugh, but the reality behind the screen is a puppeteer or “dalang“, who brings the puppet to life for a fleeting moment.
In many of Antonius Kho ‘s works the masks can hardly be seen, instead we see only a multi-colored mosaic with the distinctive black and white eyes. The eyes are the source of what is essential to Antonius Kho: the “inner eye” of man, the independent and unadulterated view of the mask. In these images, the abstract composition is important for the artists, as is makes the shape of the mask finally recognizable: in this way Kho creates a synthesis of modern, western painting and Indonesian tradition.
Dr. Lydia Kieven (art historian)