When creative couple Syahrulfikri Salleh – or Ajin – and Lolli Park decided to launch their venture, they knew they had to make their mark on the capital’s blossoming contemporary art scene. Words by Marissa Carruthers. Photo by Lim Sokchanlina.
“It was Halloween and we thought we really need to do something to market ourselves,” says Ajin, recalling how he and Lolli created caricature papier-mâché masks of themselves and adorned them for the night. “We went around the bars, and people still talk about them [the masks] now.”
Having created hype, in December 2015 they opened their studio, N o w h e r e Art Space, on Street 312 as an independent art space in Phnom Penh.
“We wanted to create a place where people can learn, collaborate and inspire,” says Ajin. “We also wanted to offer something different for people to do.”
N o w h e r e houses a quirky collection of art, ranging from postcards and paintings, to uniquely designed notepads, stickers and other creative merchandise. Workshops are also hosted weekly, and take in everything from pottery, sketching and rubberstamp making, to book binding and calligraphy.
“We are also young artists so we’re trying to find our own style and way,” says Lolli, adding the workshops provide the duo with a way to explore new artistic skills and styles.
Bored with lecturing in typography and graphic design in his homeland Malaysia, in 2013 Ajin quit his job to travel the world, making art as he went. He spent two years crossing overland from Kuala Lumpur to Spain, getting creative with a plethora of artists along the way.
It was while he was in Hanoi that he met Lolli, who had relocated from her job as manager of a fashion company in her homeland of South Korea. After completing his journey, Ajin was offered a job at an advertising agency in Phnom Penh. He worked there for a year before taking the plunge with the art studio, inviting Lolli to join him.
As well as serving up workshops and nurturing a new niche in the capital’s contemporary art space, popular projects that have helped push their vision include Mouy Dollar, drop-in sessions where Ajin sketches portraits for $1.
“This is a great way to re-introduce ourselves to the community and meet people,” he says. “We had a real diverse audience. We welcomed local grandmothers and their grandsons, neighbours, fathers and their sons. That was great to see.”
Ajin is currently running personal project 100 Faces of Phnom Penh. For this, he is sketching 100 Cambodian portraits of people with compelling stories, nominated by another. “I’m interested in visual art and social art and as an artist,” he says. “I’m trying to figure out how to combine the two.”
Lolli, who made a name for herself with her now iconic sketches of life at The White Building, has shifted her focus to capturing street life in Toul Tom Poung. “This has been such an amazing journey so far and we have learned so much and met so many people, and this is just the start,” says Lolli.
N o w h e r e Art Space is now located at the small alley on the opposite side of Norodom Boulevard from Street 380.