“My goal is not to convince anyone, but to share my view of the world.” Gus Toke

Intuition is his compass. The assured craft of painting his means. In his art, Gus Toke makes use of various techniques and combines them with drawings, numbers, and letters. He in part assembles them into words and text fragments. He abstracts, brings together elements from his living environments in an at times unusual way, and thus opens up fields of meaning that give rise to intuitive access by viewers based on their aesthetic experience: approaches to personal spaces of perception, as well as to social topics and realities.

Gus Toke creates based on his inner experience. His pictures are concentrated, charged with signs and symbols. They reveal various things about the artist, about his search for truth and clarity. They are also a reflection of his examination of the external, of the world that surrounds him. Gus Toke interrogates, likes looking behind the façade, and wants to unmask the illusion of the first look.

As a painter, Gus Toke always remains solid, independent, and free. His pictures attest to great artistic skill. Gus Toke is well versed, and trained in depth as an artist in his home on Bali; he is a precise draftsman, is knowledgeable about techniques and movements in painting. He is a well-known artist in Bali and beyond and has now been living in Switzerland for twenty years. He pursued art in silence for ten years, intentionally withdrew from public life and worked for himself—and searched—in his studio in Zurich. For pure expression—as he finds in the artists of Art Brut. For the direct and the authentic.

The period of social withdrawal was a time of transformation. It involved reflecting on society, art, and the market for it; and, not least, on himself as well. Something had previously been missing in his artistic work, a part of himself. He first gradually discovered it over the past years. His goal was and still is to arrive at his own power of expression, at the direct frankness showed by children.

He is also on a search for identity, for the spirit of himself. As he calls it. “How you feel something, how you express it, that is what identity ultimately is,” according to Gus Toke. His works are intended to contain something of his soul. “My goal is not to convince people.” He instead wants to facilitate encounters, to a certain extent encounters from heart to heart. The isolation enriched him; he observed, perceived, and absorbed what he needed for his development, while he simultaneously protected himself from influences that might have distracted him from himself.

At the age of five, Gus Toke already knew that he wanted to be an artist. This is the path that he has pursued unswervingly. His talent was recognized and fostered. He made dozens of sketches each day, to practice and to achieve naturalness. But he wanted to discard what he had learned at some point. His pictures are also traces of a breaking free, of leaving trusted things and familiar terrain behind him. Of a struggle for total freedom. Both technical and with respect to content.

In his most recent paintings, Gus Toke combines extremes, creates contrasts. His paintings thus merge intuitive creation, rational approaches, and intellectual examination. They simultaneously open up an interplay between belonging and delimitation. Whether culturally as a Balinese in Switzerland, or as an artist trained as a painter who has deliberately turned away from the art hype. Gus Toke has positioned himself independently of the art market. But as a human being, he is part of society. “I need others as a mirror,” according to Gus Toke. He needs both sides to maintain a personal balance.

As an artist, he is driven by questions about meaning. Why are we here? Where are we going? And what is life? He obtains inspiration from Zen philosophy. Thinking without thinking. Pure and pristine. This is his credo. “It took me forty years to become a child again,” Gus Toke says. What ultimately drives him is a search for truth, a striving for serenity in himself.

Vanessa Simili
Translated by Amy Klement