arkologi: gelap @ Artemis Art

“Ajim Juxta’s fourth solo exhibition arkologi: gelap, is an on-going and progressive questioning of the world we live in, and more importantly a reflection of an artist’s questioning of humanity and what it is that drives us. (…) His evolving narrative continues to warn us. With his 2014 Matikatak exhibition, he told us to listen to frogs, or rather reminded us that we have ceased to hear croaking frogs in our padangs, a sign that flora and fauna are rejecting our ways of building and living. Following, his 2016 Unknown Plus exhibition further drew out penghuni distopias, a mirror onto a future where we adopt and assimilate technology to achieve an optimum self.”
- Sharmin Parameswaran, catalogue essay for “arkologi: gelap”

Penghuni Distopia X (2018)

A reflective mood sets in, after reading the above paragraph. Not about dystopian living, but about one’s journey in art. Ajim Juxta is the first full-time artist I met in person, when I first stumbled upon Malaysian (contemporary) art. His illustrations still hang at Artisan Roast TTDI, where I first encountered both the artist and his works, six years ago. Ajim was a prominent regular at the café – which long black is still one of KL’s best – playing the ukulele while taking breaks from sketching. Once, I expressed interest in his work, and the artist gladly showed me a few architecture-influenced drawings, which fascinated me. I frequented the café a lot less, after moving away from TTDI the following year. Since then, my understanding of Malaysian art has deepened too.

Installation view of: [from l to r] (2018) tugu: sarang serabut; tugu: gerbang; tugu: selepas pertembungan

In a radio interview, curator Sharmin Parameswaran speaks about the time, she first met Ajim then invited him to show in a group exhibition, which incidentally was the artist’s first experience displaying his work at a White Box gallery. Over time, Ajim’s presence continues to be felt at the art mall Publika. Apart from participation at its weekend art markets, Ajim proceeded to set up Galeri Titikmerah along Art Row (with Adeputra Masri and Latif Maulan), and now works together with Artemis Art gallery, who carries his works to international art fairs. The artist’s involvement with the Sembilan Art Residency Program, active internet presence, and recent Khazanah-sponsored London residency, has progressively elevated his profile within Malaysian art circles.

tugu: gali (2018)

This exhibition features “Penghuni Distopia” illustrations, some presented at the previous solo; Ajim’s paintings attract me less than his drawings. ‘tugu: gali’ is a notable exception, its clear lines, washed-up colours, and scraped effect, contributing to a crumbling-but-not-collapsed aesthetic. Nonetheless, it is remarkable to observe the artist’s growth over the years. Never part of the establishment, Ajim’s DIY ethos and persistence has resulted in his work now being found on walls in cafés, homes, galleries, store rooms, museums, and fairs. In an egoistic manner, I identify my affinity with Ajim as rooted in our outsider status, where we may never breach the inner circles of Malaysian art. This journey thus far – learning about Malaysian art, for me – has been tremendously rewarding. What holds, in the following six years?

[l to r] (2018) Penghuni ii; Penghuni i; Penghuni iii