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Lolli and Ajin, adding wonders to the Kingdom of Wonder

Marie Lamy / Khmer Times Share:
Students pose proudly with their self-portrait with Ajin. Supplied

Among art studios located in Phnom Penh, one has been capturing the attention of amateur and professional artists is one called Nowhere Art Studio – owned by Lolli Park and Syahrulfikri Salleh, also known as Ajin, and located in an alley along Norodom Boulevard. In an interview with Khmer Times, the art-driven duo speaks about their journey that led to the opening of the studio five years ago.

Lolli and Ajin come from different backgrounds. Lolli, born and raised in South Korea, is a self-taught artist. Five years ago, Lolli decided to focus on her personal art journey, with no destination in mind and armed only with the determination to open an art studio in the region. Meanwhile, Ajin hails from Malaysia where he pursued graphic design studies. While travelling around the world, Ajin received a job offer in Phnom Penh, thus drawing him towards the Kingdom of Wonder. Ajin would later accept the opportunity and convince Lolli to join him, in lieu of plans to go to Chiang Mai, Thailand. After a few years of working in the Phnom Penh-based advertisement company, Ajin and Lolli started relegating part of their time to focus on improving their craft. As Ajin recounted, most of their art exhibitions were held in bars – something which, despite being a welcome opportunity, was particularly challenging owing to their introverted personalities.  The two then paired up and came up with the idea of creating a space – somehow like a cocoon – where art enthusiasts would feel the comforts brought by a sanctuary. Lo and behold in 2015, the project came to life after several months of hard labour. The studio became a home to artists and art enthusiasts alike, serving as a creative getaway and gateway for those who sought to take refuge in the wonders that art provides. Working part-time as an art teacher, patiently educating young talents to progress in their crafts, Ajin now says, “I am quite surprised to see the amount of talent there is among the young generation. Many are very talented and also immersed in the digital art era which surrounds us.”

Asked about their art studio, Ajin says their goal is not to teach the artists how to create art as there simply is no one way nor “right” way to do so. Art, says Ajin, is a free-minded interpretation of what one feels and sees thus making every craft distinct.

Lolli Park and Syahrulfikri Salleh, also known as Ajin, co-founders of Nowhere Art Studio. Supplied

“I want an art studio, where people are free to express themselves. We also want to focus on the mutual sharing of art techniques,” tells Ajin.  As Nowhere Art Studio prepares to celebrate five years since its establishment, Ajin says the beginnings of the studio was actually not as smooth-sailing as some might think, with one of the challenges being misinterpreted as a cosy café. Of course, cultural differences also came into play. For the duo, Ajin says, they had to take a few steps back to assess the art culture in Phnom Penh and adapt correspondingly. Their efforts bore fruit with them expressing their contentment on the outcome of the project which soon became more than just a project but metamorphosed into a colourful family of different nationalities, backgrounds and techniques. Their artistic production is largely influenced by the many facets of Cambodia, from the wet markets and the Independence Monument to the creations of renowned director and screenwriter Rithy Panh, as perceived from their eyes. All of these can be seen from the different elements exhibited at the art studio. For any artist starving for a safe space, or just anyone looking to create art, both founders of Nowhere Art Studio assure that the studio is just the perfect place for such desires where a thrilling fusion of art techniques, creations and ideas take place.

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