Transfiguration of Space: Paintings, Photographs and Digital Art Installation by Kong Ho

Transfiguration of Space: Paintings, Photographs and Digital Art Installation by Kong Ho

Date & Time

11 May 2012, 00:00 - 01 June 2012, 00:00


NIE ART Gallery


Visual & Performing Arts (VPA)



Events Details


Artist's Statement:

Transfiguration of Space: Paintings, Photographs and Digital Art Installation by Kong Ho

Part One: The Timeless Moments

Transfiguration of Space, a multimedia studio-based art research project, is about new sensory experiences mingled with memories of familiar old one. It’s about sharing the experience of transition, which is an experience that everyone is familiar with. What I hope to present to viewers of my exhibition is a sense of the bitter-sweet—of the time in-between—a feeling of the loss for the old environment that I left behind, and the excitement of the new world when I came to Brunei Darussalam to start a new phase in my life. I can pinpoint the moment when I first embraced the essence of what marked the place of my new beginning. It happened on July 2011, and as I was leaving the hotel apartments in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, the starting point of my new journey in life, and a place some 6,700 miles away from my hometown, Bradford, Pennsylvania. I noticed that while watching the golden-yellow sunset, that I was encountering a moment of timeless being that came from feeling that I was a person of the world and a creature of nature. This feeling is of the kind of transcendental feeling that comes from feeling lost in the enormity of nature. This sort of experience has led artists to try and paint the sublime and over-whelming nature of the elements that make up the patterns of nature.  Even though I have relocated to many places in my past 20 years: from humid Hong Kong to dry Texas; hot Texas to cold Pennsylvania; and from snowy Pennsylvania to sunny Brunei, the way the sky looks when the sun sets with its peaceful sunbeams, is the one thing that feels the same and familiar to me.

The golden-yellow clouds against the ultramarine blue backdrop of the sky on that particular evening might have been familiar; there were some aspects about it that were unique. I took several photographs of that unique moment with my cell phone camera. After that, I started taking photographs of the sky, beach, flowers, trees, landscape and cityscape around my new tropical environment. Later, I used imaging software on the computer to merge and transform some of the Borneo images as well as the images I took from my backyard wooded scenery in Pennsylvania, I also used cityscape images from my childhood in Hong Kong to work into digital art. Other types of digital images include panoramic photographs and dissolving motion videos.

Those digital images taken in different places where I have lived before still feel timeless to me, but slightly intangible when I transfigure them. Nevertheless, I transform them in an intuitive manner, though my final visual composition sometimes remains unclear to me. Digital imaging creates layers, colors, textures, dimensions, repetitions, rotations and transformations, which are different from hand-painting artworks. I cannot visualize the final images but they always remind me of the free-floating memory with no defined space or time in a spiral, panoramic, elongated, or overlapping manner. It may end up resembling a place with no beginning or end, or it may be more like the interweaving of time and space. I am not too sure how to depict that timeless moment. But repeatedly I transfigure those moments into visual images and these digital images affect almost every aspect of my art and life. My art is about the timeless moments I experience in my environment. It is very true that with the Internet connection, photographic images and human imagination, I can mentally almost exist in several places at once. These places include my physical desk in my office in Brunei, and my virtual Pennsylvania home. At the same time, my photographs, digital art and video define not only the time and space which I have traveled but also myself and my own psyche.

Part Two: The Spaceless Places

Besides my digital art, panoramic photographs and video installation, I also have continued to work on my ongoing "Cycle Series". This series evolved out of my previous transitional painting entitled Beauty of Complexity, which exemplifies the theme of spiritual wonders of the natural world. The work is painted in a semi-abstract symbolic style. Sumptuously painted in a technique consisting of painterly drips, splatters and collages held in check by subtly controlled washes of glaze and exacting trompe l'oeil objects. The compositions and imagery in this series of paintings are meant to not only be spiritually up-lifting but also to be practical in the sense that my imagery can help to guide me through my life experiences. 

Although I used the bisected nautilus shells with mathematical beauty and the Chinese ancient jade discs with a Taoist sense of harmony in my early paintings, I have revived my use of these objects and given them a more contemporary feel though my use of a contrasting scheme and introduction of other symbolic images, such as Buddhist lotus and leaves, the scientific icon of DNA double helix, smiling Buddha faces, floating marbles, flying ribbons, burning flames, drifting clouds, and wafting, petal-like boat hulls, and Chinese numbers in a square format and dark shallow escaping holes. In a sense, these symbols enable me to create art that hopefully serves the dual purposes of assisting myself and the viewers to simultaneously better understand both the natural and human made world, and our position in it.

When I look at my work more deeply, I realize that I have internalized the influences of Chinese traditional art and Taoist-Buddhist philosophy as a means for understanding the world around me as well as my own psyche. After I began my "Cycle Series," I became more comfortable about incorporating Chinese art motif and Taoist-Buddhist symbols in my work. Interestingly, the use of these symbols has brought me tranquility while painting, and I think my calmer state of mind has helped me to create paintings that are very energetic in expression, but at the same time are also harmonious in complex compositions.

In my recent "Cycle Series," I have created an asymmetrical composition by offsetting the symbolic motifs, including the bisected nautilus shell, the Chinese jade disc, the blossoming lotus and/or enlightening Buddha face against the angular edges of the squared off canvas. It is my intention to create a tensional harmony by playing seemingly contrasting forms against a rigid or formally balanced square format. It has long been recognized that culture influences the development of language, pattern recognition, and concept of numbers. The use of a square format in my recent work is meant to correspond to the notion of Chinese characters, which are square in structure. The Chinese characters appeared in my recent paintings are originally Chinese numbers in traditional written symbols. I apply them to symbolize the rational and intuitive understanding of the world around us.

I have chosen the blossoming lotus as one of my significant symbols in my recent work because of its spectacular shape and color as well as its sophisticated symbolic meanings of purity and enlightenment in Buddhism. The beauty of a blossoming lotus has always been admired in Chinese culture and the most popular subject matter in traditional Chinese ink paintings. Its lustrous quality represents the striving and inspiring virtues of an individual away from the earthly environment. I am attracted to blossoming lotus because of its unique aesthetic form and its transcendental meaning. It brings beauty and pure out from the muddy darkness at the bottom of the pond. By merging the blossoming lotus with bisected nautilus shell, I create a unique form to reveal the essential subtlety of Chinese art as well as the transcendental thought of Taoist-Buddhist philosophy with a more contemporary context.

Further interest is added to the composition through the articulation of the segments of the bisected nautilus shell, the carving pattern of jade disc and/or the linear texture of lotus petals. Rhythmic movement is created from a simultaneous growth and dissolution of nautilus shell, jade disc and lotus with the background. A sense of fundamental transformation for which no beginning and end can be discovered evolves from this body of work. Contrasting colors with spontaneous splashing marks and precisely rendered symbolic images or collages as well as improvised random patterns and orders, add to the feeling of engagement with rather than separation from my lived experience of Eastern and Western cultures and transcendental belief in Buddhist/Taoist thought.

Life is full of contradictions and so is art. Just as with everything else in life, the images in my art appear to have fluid meanings and even to take on different physical characteristics when one looks carefully at the structure of the work and contemplates the image as a whole. On one level, my paintings, photographs, digital art and videos can also be considered as visual interpretations of the Taoist order of nature and Buddhist spiritual enlightenment because my art reflects the spirit or essence of the Buddhist/Taoist philosophy that there exists a harmonious wholeness and eternal order that connects human beings to nature and to the Yin and Yang forces that govern the cosmos which is beyond time and space.