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  • Natalie Borenstein

Jonathan Avinash Victor: Mind in Motion

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

By Natalie Borenstein

At first, isolation seems an impossibility in the wake of Jonathan Avinash Victor’s art. The human mind is a crowded palace of thoughts; human life is a complex web of interactions; human sight is a maelstrom of images and perspectives. Jonathan's pieces are populated with the sensory and emotional business confronted by an individual, complex mental realities drawn into a physical space in a pleasingly psychedelic manner. Faces are hidden amidst layers of detail and irregular, Picassoesque perspective. These faces have a mystical, distant quality, but manage to hold a mirror to the self. The human figures are small in a realm of ordered chaos – interlapping buildings, stylised patterns, congested space – and thus seemingly isolated by the hyperactivity of their own consciousnesses and lives. Jonathan offers the viewer an intriguing paradox as well as a visual representation of the narrative of being, the philosophical implications of which are fascinating.

For those who have not yet been introduced to Jonathan Avinash Victor: he is a Singapore-based Malaysian artist whose work derives from a personal fascination with the subconscious mind and the tales within. In an interview for Forum Nepantla, Jonathan described his art as ‘a thought impulse finding its physical space’. Often, his work is an expression of a story or, in the case of his piece, End of a Journey, a microcosmic representation of a life. This elaborate ink illustration is the life journey of a woman from her beginnings as a young, hopeful girl at the bottom of the composition to where she becomes an angel in death at the top of the composition. Inspired by Jonathan's grandmother-in-law whom he knew well before her death in 2019, this artwork shows a ‘complex, busy life’ in which ‘she is never the focus’. Other people and things are always at the forefront. It is only at the end of her life that she manages to ‘live life for herself’. The bottom two-thirds of the piece are a tapestry of pattern, ornamentation and woven symbolism, whilst the top third opens itself up to blank space, a reflection of the different stages of life.

Title: End of a Journey

Size: 15cm x 21cm

Medium: Archival Ink on 220gms paper

Part of the fascination one can feel for Jonathan's work is the active encouragement of the viewer’s interpretation; his art calls for an interaction between creator and beholder. Communicating with Jonathan confirmed this for me, as he expressed his openness to a fluid co-operation between writer and artist. When observing Jonathan's art, particularly End of a Journey, our eyes trace the detail, deconstruct the intricacies of the piece and glide over the buzzing whole. We cannot help but invest in the search for the hidden woman, rather like a far more profound incarnation of Where’s Wally. What is the significance, one wonders, of the girl gazing out of the thin sliver of window? Where is the woman in her life when she stands amid the cavernous opening in the cobbled stone wall? The piece is imaginative in every sense, both in how the artist has created it and in the reflections it inspires in the viewer. End of a Journey, as with other pieces by Jonathan, plunges us into an ambiguous world on the periphery of a defined story.

When we then observe A Slice of Life, a motif emerges: that of the accessible mystery. Though this may initially appear a contradiction in terms, this piece gives us a glimpse of the familiar – two discontented lovers – clouded in anonymity. We know nothing of the man and woman who stare sorrowfully in opposite directions from their separate, lonely homes, yet despite our relative ignorance, we understand. The people themselves remain mysterious, though we can access their immediate emotion and secretively usher ourselves into their private contemplations; in this, there is a magical intimacy. Jonathan's art offers us a key to unlock our own thoughts.

Title: A Slice of Life

Size: 13cm x 18cm

Medium: Archival Ink and Alcohol Ink Marker on 300gsm paper

Let us return, for a moment, to the theme of isolation introduced at the beginning of this article, for in Jonathan's artistic forays into human journeys, one idea is clear: proximity can mean distance. All the business surrounding the figures in End of a Journey and A Slice of Life becomes vacuous and cumbersome. There is an emotional heaviness in the jovial, decorative style used by Jonathan. Similarly, Jonathan's Empty City is the perfect illustration of how the incessant pace and seeming fullness of human life can ultimately be an isolating experience for the individual. The stark yellow windows and layered, Escheresque perspective show vast multitudes of people living on top of one another, but even here there is space for loneliness. The piece is reminiscent of the sensation of walking through a city at night, comforted by the warm, welcoming blaze of countless flats and houses, yet simultaneously aware of the boxed-in lives the darkness illuminates.

Title: Empty City

Size: 13cm x 18cm

Medium: Archival Ink and Alcohol Ink Marker on 300gsm paper

Jonathan's art sweeps us up into a dizzying realm of perpetual motion, but despite there being no stillness in his compositions, the viewer comes away with the clarity of mind and the thoughtfulness of someone who has just tiptoed out of a meditative state.

About Jonathan Avinash Victor:

Jonathan is a Singapore-based Malaysian artist who works mainly with acrylic paint and ink. Originally an art collector, he met his would-be art teacher, Jeganathan Ramachandram, in the mid-2000s and it was Jega who inspired Jonathan to paint. He became an apprentice to Jega in 2019 before completing an advanced painting course at La Salle College of the Arts (Singapore). He won the Contemporary Art Category prize from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in 2020. A principal theme in Victor's work is the nature of the subconscious mind and the stories held within. In his works he tries to express man's search for meaning, beauty and peace.

Art Photographer: Carmen Hong Kah Mun


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