Art & Music: Artist BODHI Finds Comfort in Merging Both Mediums

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Ongoing from now to 8 July, artist BODHI (Ho Chung Kwang) is staging an exhibition with Singapore’s Gallery 1819 as part of its showcase called, “Sonata Allegro”. Artworks from his Astrochemistry Series will be on display and it aims to feature BODHI’s interests in EDM. Using psychoacoustic methods where different moods and themes from a specific music track get portrayed in the form of visuals, BODHI translates the unique soundwaves into cover art or visualizer art.

Ahead, we speak with BODHI to learn more about how he connects his passion for music and the creation of artworks.

You were born in 2000 in Penang, Malaysia. Tell us about your first steps as an artist?

Thank you for the opportunity for me to share my works with your readers. I was born in Penang, Georgetown, Malaysia. I was a hyperactive child growing up, and my parents put me in art tuition in hopes that I could sit still. That did not stop me from being hyperactive, but eventually, I started to like drawing as a hobby.

Where did your nickname “BODHI” come from?

The word “BODHI” came from a longer word “Bodhicara”, which means enlightenment in the Pali language. This name was given to me by a Sri Lankan monk whose temple my parents used to visit. And because I was born on Vesak day, on the lunar calendar, the monk gave me this nickname. It grew with my family, and my parents started to address me as BODHI.

Your large-scale paintings combine oil and spray paints with your signature drawings. How would you describe your style?

Double-edged Hominoidea by BODHI
“Double-edged Hominoidea”. Image: BODHI

I usually paint in popular sizes that look good for most homes and commercial spaces. For this current series, I used acrylic as the medium. I did a bit of oil back when I was studying at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, but it didn’t stay long once I was exposed to acrylic. I felt that acrylic was more suitable for me.

I think my works are surrealist but dissimilar to the post-war surrealism art movement. It’s a style that mixes one or few fragmented figurative subject matters into an image while adding abstract patterns to conjure a single painting, thus making it feel and look surreal.

To add on, I’m very much influenced and inspired by a few artists. The first would be Chayanin Kwangkaew, a painter in Thailand, and the second artist would be the French Duo, TelmoMiel. Both are surrealist artists in their domain.

Another thing that influenced me was the idea of flatness. I was influenced by Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, not for his colours and graphic art style, but mostly because he was one of the pioneers and one of the most prominent artists in the super flat art movement.

What type of art materials do you usually work with?

The art materials that I work with are brushes, acrylic paint, and canvases. We are seeing more contemporary artists and emerging artists mixing different materials and mediums to present interesting artworks to the audience. I would say I’m a traditionalist, though my works are not traditional.

I feel that to be an artist, it is important to have technical skills besides creativity, so I admire people who display strong technical skills in their artworks. For now, I’m a traditionalist because I follow the path of wanting to have good technical skills.

Amongst your interests are DJing and Beatboxing, how is music deeply influencing your art?

Haven, Narcotics & Moonwalkers by BODHI
“Haven, Narcotics & Moonwalkers”. Image: BODHI

I was interested in music long ago before I started doing music engineering and beatboxing. I have deeper appreciation for music now because of the technical difficulties that I’ve experienced, doing all the different DJing stuff and beatboxing, but the reason why I like music that much and how it influenced my art is how I did not become a musical artist.

For now, I become a visual artist like a painter, and I can still take what has a big influence on me, like music and implement it into art, so that’s how music has influenced me.

Adding on to that, I feel music is very important. It has a significant effect on a person’s emotional side because of its nature. Music doesn’t need lyrics or even context but it possess the ability to pass through the logical part of the brain and influence our psyche.

So when I look at an artwork, I don’t read too much into its meanings. Just like expressionism or impressionism, you don’t need to understand the context and still be influenced by the colours and all the emotions that the painting can evoke. Much like how music is able to convey similar feelings, the process is unstoppable unless you cover your ears or eyes.

Religion is also influencing your view of the world and your art. Tell us more there?

For now, religion isn’t part of me as an artist or in any of my artwork. Maybe in the distant future I might be influenced to incorporate it into my artworks, either visually as an aesthetic or contextually. We won’t know!

What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?

And may I be Somnolent of Plenished by BODHI
“And may I be Somnolent of Plenished”. Image: BODHI

I would like viewers to experience my own interpretation of the music’s essence and not just the likeness and state of mind that I am when making the work.

What has been your latest project and what is planned for you across 2022?

I am curating for The Fluxus House and participating in a couple of different exhibitions with the aim to bring awareness to BODHI as an artistic brand. These exhibitions are mostly promotional exhibitions to relaunch me as an artist and a house curator.

What can art lovers and collectors expect to see from you at your current exhibition staged at Gallery 1819 in Singapore?

Excitement and energy! I’m probably the youngest artist in the lot to have this opportunity and showcase my works at the gallery. A shout out to art lovers and collectors out there: I hope to bring new and refreshing works to your existing collection and support emerging artists like myself.

Are you also looking at creating your own NFTs?

Not at this juncture. I’ve sold NFT in the past, but I would like to establish myself as BODHI before I get ahead to do collaboration in the NFT space.

You now live in Singapore, what is your favourite memory of Penang?

BODHI, Ho chung Kwang
Image: BODHI

Me visiting Georgetown Festival! You get to watch theatre shows, music performances and a lot of different exhibitions and art-related activities. They are mostly held at Penang’s UNESCO heritage sites, which I fondly remember visiting with my family and friends.

It is quite different from Singapore Art Week, where there are more performances and free street performances such as dances, theatre and music than just visual arts.

If you were to name one mentor who has inspired you in your life and path as an artist, who would that be?

My Mentor and artist, Mr Choy Kim Hong. He taught me in kindergarten, in art tuition and through high school. He encouraged me to switch from Commerce to Arts, and under his tutelage, I continued my studies in art at NAFA. He greatly inspires me to continue my studies in the Arts and become a full-time artist. Without him, I may not be where I am today, having this opportunity to share my journey with you.

To learn more BODHI, follow his Instagram: @hochungkwang. Visit Gallery 1819’s website here and be sure to follow the Instagram: @gallery1819singapore.

For more art reads, click here.

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