Art is not something alien to Raja Azeem Idzham, better known as Ajim Juxta. His father was a curator at the Muzium Darul Ridzuan in Ipoh, Perak.

Ever so often, the museum played host to art exhibitions and Ajim’s father would bring his children (all six) for a visit.

“It’s the thing he loved and he wanted his children to have the same interest. Sometimes, he would randomly put a pile of paper and ask us to do whatever we wanted with it, be it drawings, collages and what not,” shares Ajim.

“It was not like he wanted all of us to be artists or anything but he wanted us to explore and be creative,” he adds.

The 33-year-old Ajim mentions that it was this push from his father that sparked his interest in visual art. Not to mention, both his parents were also art school graduates.

The young artist, an architecture graduate from UiTM, is definitely going places these days.

Recently, Ajim was one of three winners who picked up the Young Art Award at the Young Art Taipei 2016 art fair in Taiwan for his Arcology series. He became the first Malaysian to win this award. Arcology: Convergence was his winning piece. Two other works – Arcology: Pokok (II) and Arcology: Kokun – were also shown in Taipei.

Ajim was represented by Kuala Lumpur art gallery Artemis Art at this annual art fair in Taipei, which focuses on artists aged 45 and below.

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Ajim’s Kokun (acrylic, 2016), part of his Arcology series. Photos: Artemis Art

Ajim says he didn’t even expect to be shortlisted. He also wasn’t in Taipei when the awards were presented. “I waited nervously on the night of the event for nearly an hour. It was past nine and UC Loh (Artemis co-founder) called me from Taipei to break the news. It was beyond my expectation,” he happily recalls in a recent interview at Artemis.

The Young Art Award comes with a three-month residency programme in Taipei, sponsored by the Taiwan-based Yeh Rong Jai Culture and Art Foundation.

For his upcoming residency in Taipei, Ajim hopes to evolve his artistic techniques and ultimately exhibit at Artemis Art once he returns home. Last year, he was also part of the Sembilan Art Residency Program in Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

After quitting architecture, Ajim dived headlong into a new career adventure. The Klang Valley art bazaar circuit (from 2010 to 2012) was his starting point in exposing his art to the masses. His first group exhibition At First Glance in KL in 2012 was an eye-opener for him to take his art further. Ever the independent spirit, Ajim went on to set up Galeri Titikmerah in KL in 2014, with fellow visual artists Adeputra Mastri and Latif Maulan.

That same year, Ajim’s Mati Katak solo exhibition, brimming with apocalyptic visions on canvas, drew attention on environmental matters. As a curio, he even revisited his architecture past, with Poko(k)otak, a Christmas tree in a modular design, in 2014.

Pokok by Ajim Juxta.

Pokok by Ajim Juxta.

For his most recent Arcology series, Ajim says the works serve as a reminder about the potential dangers of technological advancement.

Arcology, a hybrid of architecture and ecology, is an architectural design principle popularised by Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri in the 1950s. It was developed to cater for densely populated habitats, creating self-sustaining mega structures to replace the urban sprawl.

“It explores the concept of utopia. After reading science fiction books and playing RPG games, it makes me realise that arcology might be a good idea … but it may not necessarily work,” he admits.

“We are constantly destroying our surroundings with technology. So, I’m not too sure about arcology being a solution. But I’m sure we will learn about utopias and dystopias, two very differing settings that will arise here,” he adds.

Take for instance his Convergence piece. This thought-provoking acrylic work, with its pen-drawn lines, exudes a certain industrial feel. In this work – half-submerged in a pool of black liquid at the bottom – are humanoid figures. There are other figures at the top of the building.

“This shows hierarchy and how humans tend to work for someone else to achieve the dreams of someone else. It is basically a study of cause and effect,” he points out.

Outside art, Ajim is also an avid musician. He is part of Juxtaposed, an indie band (featuring four of his brothers). Ajim, who also performs solo folk sets, feels it’s important for artists to have a different outlet to express themselves.

“Whenever I write, I sketch and whenever I sketch, I write. I find this important in my process,” he concludes.