If you poured Ardhira Putra's inspirations – MTV idents, vintage video games and 80s advertisements from Japanese magazines – into a blender, you might get close to the saturated visuals seen here today. But they wouldn’t conjure quite the same amount of soul. While the Jakarta-based illustrator and motion designer’s work might make you feel like you’re entering a Nintendo 64 metaverse, it manages to feel warm too. In fact, traversing through his 3D landscapes, you’re just as likely to spot clear skies, orange juice cartons and cool sea breezes as computer screens.
Ardhira was born in 1988 in Indonesia, at which time, the illustrator says, Japanese cartoons were “everywhere”. He adds: “My childhood was filled with pop references from those years.” Today, he describes his style as like “stepping back” through those moments. Although his references are wide-ranging, they can all be boiled down to the simple categorisation of “my childhood memories”.
These days, when Ardhira is approached for an album cover or music video – he largely works with musicians across the globe – it is by people who already know his style, and who want to work with it rather than against it. Whether it's supplying graphics for an album cover or for an NFT drop for SuperRare, the power ranger-like figures, vaporwave aesthetics and retro snacks remain recurring themes. These objects typically appear afloat in immersive landscapes, creating the illusion of wearing a VR headset.
If you’re wondering how on earth Ardhira manages to make his graphics so immersive, it’s been a long road of discovery for the illustrator. After graduating from a film and animation course back in 2012 – and winning awards in Indonesia and Japan for his graduate project – Ardhira worked in the industry for five years before feeling creative stagnation within his client-based work. It was then, while creating retro graphics for a friend’s band, he came across the winning formula of combining 3D and 2D. It became a way to enhance the incredible worlds he was already creating via 2D drawings, allowing viewers to enter them more wholly.
And when it comes to music videos, there is surely no better skill. His ability to transport viewers and his brilliant blend of references recently landed Ardhira a dream commission: creating the music video for hip-hop group Epik High. The enviable experience doesn’t stop there, though. Beginning with a DM from vocalist Tablo on Twitter, the project was one in which Ardhira had “full creative freedom”, culminating with a video set in Ardhira’s bedroom, “filled with my happy things”.
As a creative whose portfolio is so firmly rooted in the personal – namely in the nostalgia of his youth – the Super Rare video is a testament to what can happen when clients allow space for personal themes in commercial work. With another animated music release on the horizon for Ardhira, we can’t wait to see more of the same technical scenic mastery – and homely additions – from the creative.
Ardhira Putra: The East, Renja Series (Copyright © Ardhira Putra, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.