Nowhere is an art studio / gallery that has sprung up in the quaint neighborhood of Tonle Bassac, Central Phnom Penh. Femflection speaks with co-founders Syahrulfikri – nicknamed Ajin – and Lolli Park on their personal journey, what moved them to set up Nowhere, and what their plans are for 2017.
What is Nowhere, and why did you set it up?
Ajin: Nowhere is an art studio, gallery and collaboration space for artists. For two years, I embarked on a learning travel that brought me from Kuala Lumpur to Spain by land. I spent significant time in China, Romania and Europe, during which time I learned about other artists’ crafts and their motivations for doing what they do. It was during my travels that I realized how much we can learn and create by collaborating with other artists. As soon as Lolli and I got the opportunity, we set up Nowhere in December 2015.
Lolli: At Nowhere, our typical activities include hosting monthly art talks with different artists, and conducting public or customized workshops on a weekly basis. We also collaborate with several international schools in Phnom Penh to inspire budding artists and offer mini-workshops to their students.
How do you meet the other artists that you collaborate with?
Ajin: We literally bump into them around town. You’d be amazed by how many prolific artists, whose art is known all around the world, actually live in Phnom Penh. For example, on January 28 we are hosting a calligraphy workshop with Xavier Dupré, an award-winning type designer.
Lolli: Some of the artists we collaborate with pass through Phnom Penh during their travels. For learning and fun, Ajin and I join a weekly Drink and Draw event in a bar nearby. We get to sketch with a live model for a minimal fee, as well as meet other artists who are in town.
You both have been to many places. Why did you choose to set up Nowhere in Phnom Penh?
Ajin: I must say that Phnom Penh chose me. During the last leg of my two-year travel, an award-winning advertising agency in Cambodia gave me a job offer to be their Head of Art. That job really was a lucky break, as I was already broke at that point. I came to Phnom Penh in September 2014 with $50 in my wallet. After some time of living here, I saw the possibilities that we can do in Phnom Penh, where people are yet to be exposed to experiential and contemporary art.
Lolli: I met Ajin when he couch-surfed at my aunt’s apartment in Hanoi in 2013. I had worked in the fashion industry in my home country South Korea, and left that to come to Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, to explore the art scape and continue learning. After Ajin had come to take up his job offer, I followed him soon after. We both saw how Phnom Penh was a clean slate for what we wanted to do – a place where anyone can learn, collaborate and get inspired.
There are other art studios/galleries around town. Is Nowhere any different from them?
Ajin: Yes, in the sense that we are probably the first that offered a space for artists to collaborate in. What we have seen is that Cambodia has a lot of independent artists who work in their own spaces – at home or in cafes if they are working on their computers. An artist needs a space that is visual, a place where they can display their art works and tell their personal stories. Merely looking at art is not a complete experience. You need to hear about it, feel it, sense it.
Lolli: Nowhere is also a networking space for artists where we all can meet and discuss possibilities of contributing to each other’s projects using our varied specializations.
Speaking of specializations, what do you individually specialize in?
Lolli: As I had been in fashion, I now do block printing on fabric. I sell my creations at some lifestyle boutiques around town, such as The 240, as well as in pop-up sales. I also teach about rubber stamp art and do silk screen hand-printed drawings. One of my silkscreen works had recently been donated to The White Building Archive.
Ajin: I am a graphic artist by education and profession. I have also lectured at universities in Malaysia and here in Cambodia. In 2017 I am collaborating with other artists and private companies to promote art through human interactive experiences, which combine the arts, engineering and science. Just last weekend, my collaborators and I did an art installation at an event. Participants really paid attention as they were able to experience and play with art.
It’s been over a year that Nowhere is in operation. What would you both like to do more of?
Ajin: We’d like to grow more with the city, to continue to learn about our crafts and continue to inspire other artists. We believe that the propagation of art in Cambodia will be led by the youth who tend to be more open-minded and experimental. It will be great for us to be more exposed to the Cambodian youth so they can help evolve art into their own passions, and later on evolve these passions into a new lifestyle.
Lolli: In 2017 we want to move to a bigger space where we can help set up an art community. In Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, you will find a community of artists in certain parts of town, and that’s the space where artists hold events, festivals, community exhibits and the like. We hope to be able to do that here as well.
Ajin: We also look forward to collaborating with more artists – both local and foreign. In April, as part of our continuing learning, we will be participating in a series of workshops in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. We did the same thing last year at Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, where I was able to share my experiences about art and travel.
In the near future, we aim to participate in organizing an art and music festival in Cambodia. It is an annual event that is already being done in other countries, but being that Cambodia is yet emerging, we need the help of artists around the region to expose Cambodians to this kind of event.
What advice can you give to people who have similar passions for the arts?
Ajin and Lolli: The best way to learn about art is by experiencing it. Why learn from books when you can interact with the artist and learn about his/her story? Do not be afraid to make personal connections.
Another thing: Be willing to take risks. It is only when we dare to create something new that we can add value.
Get to know more about Ajin and Lolli’s passions by visiting their pages:
Tumblr: syahrulfikri.tumblr.com and lollipark.tumblr.com
Nowhere Art Studio/Gallery
Address: No. 3Eo Street 312, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Khan Chamkarmon, Phnom Penh 12300, Cambodia, +85517 891 772
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