Art has always been experimental in nature ever since prehistoric times when Neanderthals drew on cave walls. But Najib is no semi-clad caveman with a brush. This talented local artist started off art collective Eightyfourcube with his buddy, Sly, in 2003, and now it has grown into a one-stop creative house in Ampang with a music studio and a clothing label. Gaining much recognition in local and international blogs and magazines for its art exhibitions, JUICE finds out more from Najib about Eightyfourcube’s entrepreneuring spirit.
How did Eightyfourcube come about?
It all started when Sly and I were still in college 8 years ago. We wanted to start an art collective to share our passion in drawing and design. So we gathered some friends from college over the internet and we called our collective Eightyfourcube. We actively posted our artworks in design forums and since then, we were involved in exhibitions, and got more exposure through web and magazine features. In 2008, I decided to take it to the next level with my own studio, Eightyfourcube Studio Gallery. It remains as a collective until today.
What is it about design that excites you?
I have been drawing since forever, so the passion for art has always been in my heart. When I got into college, I got my hands on Photoshop and Illustrator. That was when I 1st started to get into digital art and design. I was interested in design mainly because I love creating beautiful visuals and I believe that there are no boundaries. I am free to experiment with colours, arrange layouts and mix computer graphic with my drawings. But I think I prefer drawing compared to designing.
You must be good with pens and pencils then. It’s said that everyone draws a circle differently. How do you experiment with illustrating?
I try to experiment by fusing different elements in my drawing. In my previous works, I’ve combined detailed images of machines and humans to deliver certain messages or ideas. In some of my latest works now, I’ve combined elements from the aesthetic values of religions and cultures, taking influences from paintings of the Renaissance Era with today’s cyber world. When I draw, I visualise what is playing in my imagination with just a pencil. I don’t look for a reference to follow.
So what are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on a personal character project called Fowdods. Fowdods characters are based on the 4 dots from our Eightyfourcube logo. So we plan to come out with a different series such as Rock Band, Magician and Workers with at least 5 characters in it. Currently in development stage, I hope to release the 1st set within this year.
Out of all the designs that you have done, which has been your best?
I guess it’s the illustration I did for my t-shirt called Designers Anatomy. It was a hit since the 1st release and I’ve had 3 different versions of it. All sold out in no time, so I guess that’s the best design I’ve come up with based on public response.
Why did you call it Designers Anatomy?
The idea came a few years ago when I got involved in an accident and had to go through a leg operation. Then I wondered, “What are designers made of?” We need music, games and other entertainment to generate new ideas. So I started to sketch random things that I used every day such as iPods, PSPs and hard drives, and arranged them like our abdomen.
Your Holy Clown artwork caught our attention. It looks like a clown priest, but what is it actually?
It is adapted from the phrase “holy cow” where in the past I wrote it as “holy clown”. So I visualised it and tried to put a different meaning to it. To me, it is an image of a person who is living a lie, covered with bright clown makeup. That is how I see it.
Why is he holding a book titled “ESC”?
It is a guide book called Escaping Everything.
We also find your artwork The Guidance pretty odd. Does it have anything to do with the Illuminati’s all-seeing eye?
It has nothing to do with the Illuminati actually. The eyes are our guidance and everything we do starts with it. Even in drawing, we start with the eyes. We always believe in conspiracy theories too much that we try to connect everything to it and interpret things with negativity.
Guess it’s just human nature… Do you think experimenting means taking a risk?
Only if it is taken too far. But as an artist, I don’t think we should think about the risk too much. We create artworks for our own satisfaction; it’s different from designing where you need your audience to understand the message you are trying to deliver. Creating artwork is totally based on passion and we are free to experiment. There is no limitation and we don’t really need to impress anyone. When you create something from the heart, it shows in your work and appreciation from the public will follow for sure. But sometimes, only those who “feel” their artwork will appreciate it.
Who is your favourite artist?
My favourite artist is Mark Ryden. He’s the only name that I can think of who inspires me a lot.
Every artist has their own music soundtrack.
What is your choice of music when you draw?
Underoath, Killswitch Engage, The Used, Love Me Butch and my own band, The Eightyfour (www.myspace.com/theeightyfour).
In your opinion, how has the art scene in Malaysia evolved?
I think the art community is doing a great job in their work and continuing their passion, but we’re lacking a proper gathering space like 798 Art District in Beijing, and the support from both the government and public on visual art. At the moment, the government is only supporting animation and digital content industries. Malaysians don’t appreciate art that much so it’s hard to sell even a poster print here, but you won’t have any problems selling a canvas print for at least RM200 in Singapore.
What can we expect from Eigthyfourcube in the future?
I am now working on pencil illustrations and combining it with digital graphics. Aside from that, I have other new drawings on the way and I hope to release them soon with plans to turn them into merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs and cushions. I have some commercial projects going on, mostly on motion graphic stuff for TV commercials. It’s exciting to work on personal and client projects at the same time. I don’t like to repeat things.
Check out more of Eightyfourcube’s genius at www.eightyfourcube.com.