Kendra Ahimsa, better known as Ardneks, is a familiar face and a close friend of ours. In fact, Kendra played a major role in the formation of Studiorama a decade ago. His magic hands have conjured amazing images that have graced our event posters and merchandise, including on our most recent release.
We had the privilege to intimately observe his growth as an artist over the years, developing his distinctive art style to the point that it has now made him a globally-known artist in his own right. To tell the truth, Studiorama’s visual aesthetic is heavily shaped by his work. As a person, he is extremely down-to-earth and has a great sense of humor.
A while ago, we caught up with him again to hear about what’s currently going on with his life. It seems like ages since we last met each other face to face, due to the pandemic obviously limiting chances to do so. The best part of catching up with a close friend, other than knowing that they are doing well, is finding out about the new things going on in their lives. It seems he’s doing well, and we’re happy to hear that.
If you are interested in Ardneks’ work, and are curious about the things and influences that shape him as an artist, what’s going on in his life, or want to find out new things about him, then this conversation is for you.
Most of your work revolves around music. What have you been working on lately?
Yeah, I admit a lot of my work is music-related. That was the direction I wanted to go in the beginning, and now, I feel grateful that I’m living it today. Right now, I’m working on four projects. The first one is for an American psychedelic rock band called Night Beats. It’s crazy because they’re a band that I listened to a lot in college. The second project is for another American band, Deap Vally. I got acquainted with their drummer [Julie Edwards] when I was asked to make a poster for the festival that she co-founded, Desert Daze. So, afterward, she asked me if I was willing to create the artwork for her band’s next album too. The third project is for a French band called Ko Shin Moon. When I listened to the songs on their upcoming album, I was blown away. They take inspiration from Lebanese, Middle Eastern, Indian, and even Indonesian music. The band members themselves are avid travelers and are passionately interested in the music of the places they visit. I was surprised when one of their members said that they were familiar with Rhoma Irama. The fourth project is for another French band, Pearl and The Oysters, which are currently based in America. I really dig their stuff. Very, very underrated.
Can you explain to us how the music you listen to shapes your art?
When I was in high school, I remember I used to hang out a lot at Aksara. I would spend hours browsing through CDs and artworks that they had for sale. At that time, I was also very into the concert poster designs of the Fillmore East era. From there, I decided to abandon my previous ambitions of becoming an engineer to pursue the goal of someday designing artworks for my favourite bands. So, I studied design. I hung out regularly at gigs around Jakarta. Music is an integral part of me, so naturally, it shapes my art as well. You can say that around 75% of all my works are inspired by the music I listened to when I was making them.
What was your first love? Music or visual arts?
The arts, of course. I’ve always liked to draw since I was a kid. I only got into music around the 4th grade. Doesn’t really matter what I got into first, what matters is that I’m now making a living combining them together.
How would you describe the evolution of your art style over the years?
For that, I would usually remind myself of what my idol, David Bowie, had done. Evolution is important, but if Bowie were to turn into a lizard, people will still know that it’s him. What I got from that is: identify what makes you unique and develop the hell out of that.
What still tends to surprise you about your work?
Mainly the reception it gets because I tend to put in a lot of trivial, personal references into my work. For example, I remember putting in a Beach Boys reference in one of my works and then this person from Brazil saw it and began to tell me that his favorite song is in the Beach Boys album I was referencing. It’s amazing how music is able to connect people from different corners of the world. One of the reasons why I love making posters is because, to me, it is a very approachable form of art: accessible and meaningful to many. You don’t need to go to a gallery or a museum to see posters. You can get yourself a copy, put it on your wall and look at it every day. No matter how great the art in galleries are, that old poster that you have hanging on your wall will always mean more to you.
How does your surroundings and environment affect the way you create?
I’m grateful to be surrounded by supportive people who always push me to do my best.
How has the pandemic affected you, either personally or professionally as an artist?
Not that much. I mean, I like to stay at home and I work from home anyway. So, the pandemic, in that sense, didn’t really affect me that much. What I miss is seeing my friends, though. Travelling as well. I recently got into a lot of travel shows because of my girlfriend. I like Rick Steves. He’s really cool.
“I decided to abandon my previous ambitions of becoming an engineer to pursue the goal of someday designing artworks for my favourite bands.”
What are some new things you discovered in this past year?
I found out a lot of new elements that I can put into my art: colours, patterns, etc. Sometimes these moments of hibernation can be very useful for developing yourself.
What are the simple things that have made a profound effect on you?
I remember I used to dislike cats. My mother miscarried once when she was carrying my would-be little sibling because she caught toxoplasmosis from her friend’s cat. Then one day, around four years ago, I suddenly found myself rescuing a cat that had just got run over on the road. I took care of that cat until she was all better, and she has since borne four kittens. Because I’ve mostly stayed home during the pandemic, I’ve become more attached with my cats and I think they’ve also grown more attached to me. It’s funny if you think about it. Talking with my cats is now an essential part of my day.
How does Ardneks usually spend his days?
Nothing special. I usually sleep with my cat, Oh Hih. She usually wakes me up whenever she wants to eat. After that, I usually just take a shower, make some coffee, put on some music, call my girlfriend and then go about with my day.
Is it true that, aside from drawing and music, you’re also very much into cooking? And that not a lot of people know that?
(laughs) Yeah, that’s right. Maybe it’s because I like to watch cooking shows. I realized the importance of having different interests. Whenever I don’t feel like working, I usually cook. By diverting my attention to cooking for a while, it helps rebuild my desire to draw again later.
“No matter how great the art in galleries are, that old poster you have hanging on your wall will always mean more to you.”
What are three things that people don’t know about Ardneks, but you feel that people need to know?
1. I dropped out of college. This is an important piece of info because I want to underline that you don’t necessarily need a college degree to pursue your passions.
2. My eyes are at about -5. I use contact lenses, so many people don’t realize this. People need to know about this because working in front of computers all day will definitely fuck up your eyes. So, yeah, just a heads up.
3. I consider Sore’s Centralismo as my starting point. I was still in high school at the time, and I was struck by the album’s music, as well as Mayumi Haryoto’s artwork. That album opened me up to the local indie scene. I suddenly felt that my pipe dream of making artworks for bands wasn’t so impossible after all. Because, damn, that album is incredible. If I never found Centralismo, maybe I would have ended up an engineer today. This is important because you need to always remember your roots.
If you could travel back in time and spend 24 hours with anyone of your choice, who would it be and what would you guys do?
I’d probably go with one of my main influences, Henry Darger. Throughout his life, even until his death, he worked as a janitor. When his landlord began to sort through Darger’s apartment after he died, he found piles and piles of manuscripts scattered around the place. Nobody knew he was an artist. He only created for himself. If that isn’t the purest form of art, then I don’t know what is. It would be lovely to talk with him, listen to his stories, and see how he works.
Photographer: Alviyena Inkamano
Stylist: Johno Surodji
Model: Bari @ Silver Models
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