The distinctive spacing-out of the name of a new art gallery – n o w h e r e – allows it to convey a dual meaning: “nowhere" but also “now here".
Co-owned by artists Lolli Park and Syahrulfikri Razin Salleh, the gallery and its name are the product of romantic whimsy, inspired by a sweet nothing the couple were fond of saying to each other when working collaboratively on artistic projects: “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than now and here with you.”
It was that impetus – to have a place to work and be together – that compelled the Malaysian-Korean couple to set up the art space on Street 312.“We just want to be somewhere and do art together,” explains Salleh.
The artist and designer originally settled in Phnom Penh in September 2014, at the end of a world tour that saw him craft an online fanbase around the rallying cry “Quit your job, travel the world and make art".
Park arrived later. A Seoul native, she had quit her job in fashion to live in Hanoi and then to travel. In 2013 the two artists crossed paths. After a few more encounters in different countries, Salleh persuaded Park to move to Phnom Penh in September this year.
The couple work, often collaboratively, across a wide variety of media including illustration, design and handicrafts. Their skill in the last category is evident from the Frank Sidebottom-esque papier mache heads they are fond of posing in.
Park said she was excited by the creative opportunities up for grabs in Phnom Penh. “There’s nothing much here yet. We can do anything,” she said.
Salleh agreed, explaining that Phnom Penh was a strikingly easy space to establish an art space – firstly because of the lack of “protocol” involved, and secondly because of the lack of competition. “In Malaysia there’s a lot of these contemporary, small art galleries run by artists already,” he said.
As well as operating as a venue for Salleh and Park to exhibit their own works, n o w h e r e will be the venue for free weekly “sketch circle” meet-ups on Wednesdays and screenings of arts-related films on Sundays, which cost $2 with a drink included. They are also hosting workshops, the first being a print-making workshop run by Lolli today, which costs $30.
Salleh and Park are also hoping to collaborate with other artists, beginning with a colouring book they’re currently preparing for publication. Submissions on the theme “Kingdom of Wonder” have been sourced from several international artists and five Khmer illustrators, with the book due to be completed and on sale soon.
Salleh said that while the gallery had proved instantly popular with expats, it had been harder to encourage locals to visit. Most of the Khmer artists who contributed to the colouring book were initially sought out on Facebook before visiting nowhere in person.
“It’s a new thing and a very new concept. Most expats really like the idea, but we really want to push for the Cambodians to come and join us,” he said.
“In Phnom Penh, there’s either high-end fine art galleries or NGO souvenir shops. We wanted to be in the middle – more accessible.”
n o w h e r e is located at #3EO, Street 312. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 7pm. Tel: 017 891 772.