He's not your average twenty-something, drawing in his room. Reminiscing cross-legged on his bedside chair, he says, “I wanted to be an engineer." Leaving aside the juxtaposition of his once dream-career with his current one, Kendra Ahimsa - the methodical mastermind behind the moniker Ardneks - is exactly where he wants to be. His psychedelic colors paired with ironically symmetrical lines are a little bit everywhere these days, having stolen the spotlight in Jakarta’s art scene. But he's got bigger things in mind.
“I want my work to come up as some Mexican kid twenty years from now Googles ‘Indonesian Music Artwork Illustrator,” he utters.
In his natural state, Ahimsa is surrounded by Fillmore posters, illustrating band members or solo music acts into his very whimsical realities. He gives his geometric ruler full credit for the exact ratio in most of his shapes.
His colors are so vibrant you can nearly taste them. There's an ever-present subtle symmetry in the background; a foreground a harmonious story with hidden cult-favorite references (his artworks come packed with hidden easter eggs - look out). Ahimsa's visual work clearly references those Wes Wilson works, pulling from Tadanori Yokoo and infused with Mati Klarwein dipped in retro ephemera. His landscapes almost always involve a dynamic marriage between Japanese anime skyline and the classic retro Memphis architecture. They're like something from those wonderfully bizzare dreams that you can't seem to recall in sobriety.
Why music-specific artworks? “Nobody’s really doing it yet,” he says. And it's true, that nobody’s doing quite what he’s doing: pouring life onto paper in a certain blue and a certain yellow, for Indonesian musicians. He continues, “If everyone’s the same, then who’s gonna stand out?”
It wasn't always humble symmetry and that signature palette. It started with black-and-white, pencil on paper with shaded-in details - which he later found to be counter-productive. “I want people to know it’s my work at a first glance.” To be distinct became his secured aspiration. So that blue, that yellow, and that bindi red became Kendra's best friends.
And it hasn't always been a solo gig. Ahimsa, approached by a close friend who runs Studiorama (Indonesia's audiovisual harbor for underdog music), happily began illustrating visually magnetic posters for their shows. Oozing psychedelic artistry, his works for Studiorama were also sold as merchandise during the concerts - and they sold very well. "There was a gap in the music scene in Jakarta, where at one point there was nothing going on," he says. Studiorama was a pioneer of live indie shows, working to once again let the music seep into the souls of those who craved it. So Ardneks started by illustrating one musical artist. And now it's dozens.
"Suddenly, I'm in the same room as my high-school heroes." Five years into the journey, he's euphoric in the payoff. He reminds me it's all in the process, slow and steady, nothing like the ever familiar instant noodle pack consumed quickly after a midnight jog to the kitchen. In intentional ways and more than one, he did not let his dream slip away. If anyone's making it in the dream job industry, it's Ardneks.
It’s either the traditional red bindis connecting all sentient beings in the Ardneks-verse, or the color scheme found nowhere else. Maybe it's the equal mixture of Japanese and Memphis architecture, or the cohesiveness of his primary hues. The works of Ardneks mean an automatic double-take. You either like them or you love them, but you surely won’t miss them.