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Ardneks : A psychedelic personal letter from Indonesia.

Chignitta We decided that our first interview would be with Ardneks.

Ardneks is the unit name of Kendra Ahimsa, winner of UNKNOWN ASIA 2016 Grand Prix. He has been involved in a wide range of activities including artwork for the local Indonesian music scene, magazine advertisements, and providing graphics for fashion brands. We have been working with him for the past 5 years in various exchanges between Japan and Indonesia. In this interview, we would like to introduce his artwork, ask him what he is thinking now, and what gadgets have influenced him as an artist, and try to unravel his creativity from there.

In the midst of the global corona disaster, I conducted the interview with him via email, and Kendra answered my tedious questions very sincerely and with a lot of material. I was surprised to see that his top 10 career and influential references included Yasujiro Ozu, Alain Resnais films, and even the Bauhaus ballet. Once again, I was truly impressed by this Indonesian creative genius, who has successfully brought his insatiable passion for creativity, his spirit of inquiry, and the Internet age to fruition. I felt once again that it is only natural that his artwork attracts love calls from creators around the world who share the same spirit. Please take your time and enjoy.

What was it like for you as a child?

One of my earliest memory would be just me as a child reading mangas, watching animes and cartoons all the time. I used to try to replicate the characters on my school notebooks to a point where I got scolded by my teachers. I draw a lot. I remember I was a rather curious kid, always wanted to know how things work. I wanted to be an engineer. That was before I found music and art.

What first made you decide to become an artist?

When I was in high school, I frequently visited to this local record strore in Jakarta called It’s filled with cool hip people because It puts out all the indie records you wouldn’t find anywhere in Jakarta at the time. I often found myself gazing at record jackets and thought how cool would it be to be the person who makes these record jackets. It sort of was a perfect timing because I was a teenager who could dream without any consequences. So I abandoned the whole becoming an engineer thing and decided to study graphic design in college instead. I dropped out in the end though, but yeah, that was it.

What is the "most successful" thing you've ever done! Tell me about a moment or event that made you feel like you were in the right place at the right time.

Honestly, it probably was Unknown Asia. For someone from Indonesia whose work is greatly Japanese-influenced but doesn’t speak Japanese to exhibit my work to Japanese people, it’s extremely nerve-wrecking. Will people get it? Then I went and it literally changed my life. I experienced first-hand how art trancends language and cultural barriers. There was this woman, Tatsuko-san, she gave me this packet of retro Japanese memorabilias. “It’s because when I see your work it feels like you’re my old friend”, she said. She doesn’t speak English but she Google-translated it so I would understand. That interaction moved me to tears, I mean what more could you ask for?

Tell us about your current plans and latest activities.

Ah quarantine times.. Well, besides watching films and listening to records all day everyday, I’m just trying to keep myself productive. One project at a time. I’m currently working on a record jacket for this Melbourne-based psychedelic band called Sunfruits. So much fun, they remind me of Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd era.

What are the 10 artworks that you consider to be the best in your career?

1) Celestial Broadcast

Celestial Broadcast This is my first full-color illustration. It opened my eyes to a new world. It has always been one of my favorite pieces of art. It's about the soul-searching phase of my life.

2) The Sugar Colony

I was riding on a train and saw a man with long silver hair talking to himself and laughing. I thought that he might be seeing something that no one else was seeing. Then I thought about the circus that travels on flying carpets called the Sugar Colony. Anyway, I became obsessed with the idea and my mind was filled with plans to create a "Seraphinian Codex" with the characters I had come up with. I'm not sure how this will land right now, but I'm sure it will come to fruition.

3) Cosmic Boogaloo

This was my first time in Osaka, and I will never forget the feeling I had when eight Japanese men worked together to create this huge piece of art. Japan has always been my visual art compass, so it was a dream come true to have my work exhibited in Osaka.

4) Technicolour Reflectance

A light box above my hotel bed in Art Tel Jakarta. I hope one day some "rock star" will grab it and throw it out the window onto the street like in the movies. That would be so cool, wouldn't it?

5) Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a psychedelic pop band based in Portland. One day, I was checking my inbox and found an email from them, who I am a big fan of. I opened that email and took some time to digest this event in my own way.

6) Rafi Muhammad: Transition

This is the cover of the first solo album in 10 years by Rafi Muhammad, a 20-year-old prodigy new drummer from Indonesia. It was an out-of-this-world experience to see my album, which I had always dreamed of making a record cover for, win the Indonesian Music Award.

7) Flamingods: Levitation

A tropical four-piece psychedelic rock band from London/Bahrain. My favorite project so far. I was approached by a band I had never heard of before. I googled them and listened to their music, and I was on fire. We talked right away and hit it off. We spent months working on this project. Then I had to go to London for work, so I finally met them in person. We went to their studio, hung out, and had pho afterwards. That's the best part of doing a project with a band.

8) Khruangbin x Kikagaku Moyo

Khruangbin is a Texas trio heavily influenced by Thai funk music, and Kikagaku Moyo is a Japanese band based in Amsterdam, currently known for their psychedelic and spiritual musicianship. I designed the tour posters for two of my favorite bands. It's a really special piece for me.

9) Moon Duo: Stars are The Light

Moon Duo is a popular avant-garde psychedelic rock band from San Francisco. I was literally jumping out of my skin when they brought me this poster. I love their music, and I hope I can do them justice.

10) The Stories: Ardneks x Artist Attire

This exhibition is the pinnacle of my career so far. I dream of a space where my work is everywhere, on the walls, on the floor, where people can come and enter my world. I thought it was just a dream. Then one day, THE STORIES contacted me and it became a reality. I got to meet my idol, Hiroshi Nagai, who DJ'd at that party, and he also bought my penguin shirt.

List 10 things or gadgets that have influenced you as an artist.

1) Tadanori Yokoo

Yes, first of all, Tadanori Yokoo. It's obvious that he influenced my work. When I started making my work, I was studying Fillmore posters and was into the psychedelic counterculture. That's when I happened to come across Tadanori Yokoo. I was very impressed. The way he sublimates art with his graphic design is truly revolutionary. I hope that in years to come, children in Mexico, Egypt, or somewhere else in the world will find my work and be inspired to create their own.

2) Stereolab

The heavy experimentations with motoric Krautrock beats and French pop sensibilities? There was just nothing like them. I fell in love the first time I heard Emperor Tomato Ketchup, the album which name was taken from a Shūji Terayama film. That really influenced me to put trivial things in my artworks.

3) Yasujiro Ozu

There’s this sense of calm and quiteness on his shots that I love dearly. I have a very melancholic nature as a person and I like to express it on my work. You would see the busy detailed illustrations but with rather pensive facial expressions. That, I learned from Ozu.

4) The Adventures of Pete & Pete

I grew up watching this. Amongst all the cartoons and animes I watched, there’s this gem of a TV show. It’s like Twin Peaks for kids, it’s so surreal and wonderful. It introduced me to a lot of things, alternative music, expanding my imaginations, the power of visual storytelling. I saw Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, and Hunter S. Thompson on their episodes. The more I remember it now, it really was one the first things that shaped my creative intuitions as a kid.

5) Mughal Miniature Paintings

It’s this style of painting that came out from 15th—18th century Persia. The playful use of colours and the unique 2D compositions really influenced how I approached my work.

6) Beach House

They’re probably my favourite band for the past 12 years. I can’t even express how much their music means to me, it got me through some pretty dark times. I want to care for someone the way this band cares for me.

7) Hiroshima Mon Amour

The New Wave cinema movement be it French or Japanese, hugely influences my work. This one is my personal favorite. I accidentally found out about this film when I was curiously digging about the French influence in Shibuya-kei scene with musicians like Pizzicato Five and Kahimi Karie and someone on some forum mentioned about it. So I watched it and the first 20 minutes of the film I was already heavily immersed. It’s a cinematic masterpiece. It has nothing to do with Shibuya-kei scene but it’s about an interaction between a French Actress played by Emmanuelle Riva and a Japanese Architect played by Eiji Okada. Everything about it is just hauntingly beautiful.

8) Zan-e Rooz

I’m a big fan of retro magazine covers. Indonesia got Aktuil, France got Hara-Kiri, Australian got Oz Magazine, Japan has many amazing ones but this one just strikes me most. It’s an Iranian pre-Islamic revolution girl magazine. It’s so amazingly vibrant and colorful that when I saw the before and after revolution pictures, I was heartbroken. I wonder what if my crayons, paints, and colours are taken away?

9) Shintaro Sakamoto

As a musician and an artist he never fails. I’m a huge fan of Yura Yura Teikoku because not only they have this incredible sound, they always have incredible artworks that accompanies them. So when when I found out that he’s the one who also made the artworks I was completely amazed. Even after the band’s disbanded he keeps creating finer works with his solo stuff. Let’s Dance Raw album is one of my favourite records. He’s my Elvis. I even got a tattoo to prove it.

10) Triadisches Ballett

I forgot how I came across to this but it left a deep impression on me. It was a Bauhaus avant-garde performance piece developed by Oskar Schlemmer. I’m a big fan of retro-futurism, not just the aesthetics but the whole thought process of it. Retro era was 50 years ago and this piece came out in the 1920s which is almost 100 years ago. So if this what people 100 years ago sees of the future I wonder what will they say about it seeing how things are now? I remember reading Doraemon as a kid and saw how they depict year 2000s with flying cars, people in space-suits living in these futuristic interiors. So when the year 2000 came I was a bit angry because it’s nothing like it, it’s pretty much the same.

Editor's Note: Nakanoshima Rhapsody: "Bringing Color Back to This World

In 2020, I worked with him on another one. It is a 15 meter mural painted on the building where one of his idols, Tatsuro Yamashita's beloved "Festival Hall" is located. I requested the title "Nakanoshima Rhapsody" and he emailed me the painting. Bringing color back to this world" was his message to me at this time. I wish I could have met you in front of this painting, Kendra, so I could have gone to Jakarta and talked endlessly with you about music and art again. I can't wait to go to Jakarta and talk about music and art with you again, just like we did that night when we first met.




Born in 1989, based in Jakarta, Ardneks is the unit name of illustrator Kendra Ahimsa. A lover of 70's Japanese city pop, his psychedelic pop illustrations are influenced by Japanese pop art, but no matter how he draws them, they always have an Asian flavor. He won the Grand Prix at UNKNOWN ASIA 2016.



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