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Home > Arts > Painters > Antonius Kho
Antonius Kho
Talking about Antonius Kho is dealing with the theme of identity: are we one, or are we split in multiple facets? Are we masks, and do these masks hide, or reveal reality? Do we communicate are not?

These themes haunt the artist’s career. We may look for an explanation in the artist’s past. A Javanese by his mother, who transmitted him the longing for oneness inherent to her culture, Antonius Kho is a “Chinese” by his father, who stamped him as an alien: “orang Cina” (Chinese). Speaking in his strong Javanese dialect, inheriting this ethnic-cum-cultural duality, Antonius Kho turned it into a voluntary personality split: he grew adult, and an artist, by continuously generating and questioning, though new experience, new layers of identity.
The place, of all places, where he first pursued this search of the self was Germany: Germany, the fertile ground of European 19th humanism, and the land of 20th European horrors.
It is the place of contrasts, where, more than anywhere else, being “alien” has the most daunting meaning. But Germany opened it self to him. After studies at the Cologne Institute of the art, he was soon active as a “German” artist exhibition internationally.

The artistic mood of the country provided him with the tools he needed. When he arrived there in 1985, the genre known in Europe as “informal art” was flourishing, and artists such as Wols, Fautrier, Tapies and Dubuffet, were still considered as the avant-grade. The peculiarity of these “informal” artist was that they endeavoured to “essentialize” expressive power by reducing representation to its “archetypal” core.

Antonius Kho’s manner evolved from this style, but with a difference. His paintings, instead of resting, on amorphous figuration, would mostly consist of figures, or faces (masks) structured in the manner of mosaics, that is split in small, mainly geometric elements and yet readable in their iconographic totality. The artist was in these works expressing the tension between fragmentation and unity that he was experiencing in his search for identity, as well as the tension between isolation around the self and communication with “others”.
Antonius, however, was somehow was too “awkward” in this technique, or too shy for his message to be totally convincing.
Now. However, in the recent works, his themes and treatment are changing for the better.
In some works, the masks and the mosaics are still present, but it is to convey a message of love, as in “Bercanda (Joking)” or simply to show the defeat of pessimism though the intercession a “Savior”, like in “Wajah-wajah yang disalibkan” (the Faces of the Crucified).

Figuration all but disappears, except for “eyes”, which denote the fusion of Man in the living cosmos.
He seems to tell us that there is after all unity in Man, and that communication is not an impossible dream, because the mosaic of life and that of one’s identity always ultimately melt into cosmic oneness. So this most “European” Indonesian artist is now rediscovering his real mother: Java; and his quest of identity leading him to a spiritual rediscovery. Antonius Kho has finally found his path toward maturity.




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