Visual Loyalty is about realizing our loyalty with our profession. Even though there are obstacles as we follow our journey, but we are still loyal. This is just like how pets are always loyal to their masters.
– Antonius Kho, 2009
Those are some wordings sent by Antonius Kho to me, when he was thinking of holding this solo exhibition. Title of this exhibition was firstly burst out by Antonius Kho himself. The concept is about loyalty to profession. Why did Antonius Kho have chosen dog as icon that present “loyalty“?
Dog does not only come in its natural behavior and brings the nature’s characteristic, but it has also entered cultural territory. In human civilization, dog’s natural behavior was constructed as creature that can understand ways of living together with human beings. As in human civilization, dog has long been functioned as guard animal in life. Therefore it is easily to distinguish between guard and investigation dog, for instance.
Dog also has some geographic connection. For example we know physically Kintamani (Bali) dog does not only have some certain specification, but as of the culture it is constructed by agricultural tradition. Ways of breeding them is to pattern food and knowing types of food they consume, up to the way they communicate with human. In brief, human constructed the way dog lives based on human needs, with dogs.
In the latest artworks of Antonius Kho, dogs are everywhere on his canvas. There is a process of study about dogs, for Antonius Kho. He happens to be animal lover and own several dogs in his house. Mingling with dog’s behavior for years, is path of his study. He does not only pay a closer look on dog’s behavior, but also being part of their life. He has made the dogs loyal, to him. And when a dog gets older with his weaken step and less shine furs, Antonius Kho still loyal to animal he loves. Not only dogs that is loyal to the life of this artist residing in Bali, but Antonius Kho is also loyal to his pet. He still looks after the old dog that does not shine anymore.
For me personally, Antonius Kho has entered a new chapter in his carrier as an artist. All these time, we are familiar with Antonius Kho’s visual works which are decorative; Indonesian visual art segment where he belongs. Decorative visual art was changed with a particular approach. Antonius Kho often weaved, related, and filled that decorative art with layer of lines, spaces, and complex layered colours; a visual games which has no ending. This method has made Antonius Kho fully able to draw. When canvas is in his arm, then he freely work on details of complex lines. And narration build by Antonius Kho is commonly hidden behind that. Visual explanation is used as mile stone towards destination point, which is visual play with unity control.
Up to these days, Antonius Kho stays loyal with that method, but there are others who tries to play around with this. Antonius then realizes the importance of narration following his artworks. It is then no surprise, that he have chosen various media to emphasize his narration. He does not only deal with works on canvas, but also 3D objects. Not only flat surface that he works on, but also flat layered surface, with several points of view. Even he had ‘crossed over‘ the limitations, and doubted unity. Icon then presented in this free game.
The relation of signs seems more ironic. We do not only avoiding meaningful sign of conventional ideology, but we also avoid function as dominant reference of sign. In his latest works, he picks up sign from Indonesian traditional and modern art. This method is followed by Antonius Kho to lift up ideology and spiritual meanings, but to create a new chain of sign as well, to vanish its conventional meanings. Therefore it is obvious how Antonius Kho drown him self in his free game of sign. He again entered a new territory: form follows fun which is desires in playing with signs.
For example take a look at, Mini 2 (… x … cm). This work gives appearance of a woman’s face with posture and gesture which presents pop characteristic. As of pop media publicity, Mini 2 strongly shows that. However Antonius Kho is not about to explore fully about the pop world. He is just borrowing that characteristic, in order to later connect the games of decorative art from such a tradition, where there is esthetic exchanged. Visual games which has two different sources strongly stating that Antonius Kho does not believe limitations. He crashed into that limitations and melts them to become one, by waving unity. This is a fun game which gives freedom to artist, from limitations of genres; a dialog line which connect traditional and pop art.
Similar thing also appears on his works; Me & My Shadow (150 x 150 cm). That artwork was made, with three characters from three different genres. There is realism, decorative, and pop genres, here. It basically connects the three characters and for Antonius Kho who have released him self from those limitations. It is more likely needed for the position of making narration. Again, pay attention on how the woman’s faces is crossing with the body of a dog. Narration which was created has the loyalty issue.
We understand that in the modern era, modern art pulls out its involvement with ideological meaning; and modern art also pulls out the referral of social reality – where in every form of statement, in the end makes us realize the meaning of the functional aspect from an object. The terms of ‘function‘ in used object, is based on utility value with an object could offer. In real art, the function fenomena could be elaborated with different terms; formalism, where a shape could be said meaningful, based on related structure with reality outside art it self, in fact the formal relation with elements (lines, shapes, space, and colour) that forms that shape directly and decide its function3).
Modern esthetic also believes that unity is a basic principle which must comes in every artwork. And art must also build its own principle which is free from any tradition, social code, esthetic code, and religion code. That is how it is with codes which are built in modern art, where unity can not be mixed with different codes. By it self, this principle insist to be born with result of differentiation from codes which have previously existed.
Taking closer look at the latest artworks of Antonius Kho, what comes with ‘limitations’ of modernism, does not appear. Antonius Kho has entered ways of avoiding single coding and open opportunity for eclectic code. There is traditional code which is side by side with pop code. Antonius Kho has taken this path to gain open communication. His work Smilling Face (96 x 31 x 31 cm) dan Shame (40 x 30 x 30 cm) were not only built by two medias which been categorized as different media, but the effort of Antonius Kho to group that two different medias is a reflection of not believing in those limitations.
Further to that, Antonius Kho is currently accommodating various techniques from conventional up to wood crafting. A sheet of transparent acrylic sheet which visually sees through were being realistically optimized by making cuts through it, using electric solder. This is later coloured with coloured glass which gives the transparent feeling. Behind this work, there are other works; wooden sculpture. What is presented with these two medias in one artwork is Antonius Kho’s consciousness to crash into limitations of conventional art.
It is directly understood what each artwork presents, and not only visual factor which stimulate our eyes, but also understanding the layered process. Woman in the Smilling Face is a person who is pent up within a visual limitation. Assumption could also further moves to problem of the woman’s body in the contemporary context, which is friction from private to public consumed. But if we look back to the art concept of Antonius Kho nowadays which talks about ‘loyalty‘, the loyalty is equal to visual symbol on acrylic sheets.
As characteristic of contemporary art, prediction lies on hope horizon by the viewer of artworks. And I am one of the many predictors. And you are also one of the thousand predictors. Every prediction has background and different destination point. Therefore there will be various predictions. This is wealth. Wealth of Antonius Kho artworks.
Lecturer Staff of Visual Art,
Universitas Pendidikan Ganesha, Bali.