1. And it came to pass that Jahan Loh needed to move to a bigger studio.
  2. He has amassed a number of stuff over the years and his old space brimmed with
    relics of his past.
  3. His new place is chaos. Half-opened boxes; sculptures in corners; framed
    paintings hang on walls; others are kept in storage.
  4. Jahan forms some sense of order in a room within his studio. There, graven
    images of his interests can be found—Transformers, loose Star Wars figurines (many
    that were inherited from his cousins), Robotech model kits, comic books, artwork
    from his peers (SSUR, Futura, Stash), vinyl toys. Sometimes, Jahan hoards multiples
    of the same toy.
  5. Many things I own are mass-produced, says Jahan.
  6. In this age of mechanical reproduction, does it lessen the value of his hoard?
  7. Everything sparks joy, says Jahan.
  8. However, you will not find images of skulls. The symbolism doesn’t sit well with
    Jahan. Bad vibes.
  9. The last four years when Trump was president… that has a lot of negative energy,
    says Jahan.
  10. Renovations of the studio were waylaid by the pandemic for eight months.
  11. Putting aside the inconvenience of settling in, Jahan sees the pandemic as
    a catalyst for the progression of technology; the digital age accelerates.
  12. While the pandemic quickens some things, others remain constant.
  13. The pandemic has also stoked the fires of Jahan’s hypochondria. Other than the
    increased vigilance for his health and hygiene, Jahan’s routine didn’t alter much.
    Jahan still paints. He’d enter his studio at 10.30am and work while listening to
    an array of music.
  14. And Jahan now conducts his meetings, albeit online. It’s a solitary life, one that
    has him in the studio eight to 10 hours in the day before returning home to his wife. He eschews clubbing or attending gallery openings.


  1. To understand why Jahan is what he is today, we must look back at what he was before.
  2. Sunday mornings are filled with cartoons and children’s programmes. A lot of
    Woody Woodpecker and Kamen Riders.
  3. Jahan also has a fascination with science fiction.
  4. And Jahan has refused a career in law and scored a scholarship to the LASALLE
    College of the Arts.
  5. The experience at LASALLE is as ‘terrible’. He went in with the romantic notion
    of learning about art but there wasn’t much of a foundation for him to draw from.
  6. It’s like kung fu, says Jahan. If you don’t perfect your fundamentals, how will you
    advance in your craft?
  7. His teachers always put him at risk of failing. Jahan took this negativity and
    created a piece called ‘Gone to the Dogs’.
  8. Jahan graduated from LASALLE in 2002 and followed that with his first solo pop
    art show, Cherry Pop.
  9. Ensconced in his own world; daydreaming, world-building, and all of his creation
    exist inside Jahan’s head. His friends refer to him spacing out as being very ‘dazed’.
  10. Jahan was also inspired by the graffiti of Daze aka Chris Ellis.
  11. Dazed-J would be his calling. Dazed-J would be his call sign.
  12. By day, Jahan would serve out his scholarship bond with The Straits Times
    creating cartoons and infographics for the national broadsheet.
  13. By night, Jahan and Maslan Ahmad aka Skope would go out to tag.
  14. Soon after, Jahan broke his bond and moved to Taipei for a job offer. He’d work
    for Machi Entertainment and he won several Taiwanese music awards including
    MTV’s CD Cover Design of the Year.
  15. Jahan would form Invasion Studios that designs album covers and direct music
    videos. Invasion Studios would eventually gear itself towards art and animation.
  16. When he started as a full-fledged artist, Jahan subsisted on his own savings for
    the first two years. When you hit the bottom and you’re scraping on the ground,
    you’re still alive, says Jahan.
  17. When you reach the lowest depths, there is no way you can sink any deeper.
  18. Several exhibitions later, Jahan is still painting.
  19. Death comes to all of us, that is the first truth. In understanding that first truth,
    why would you toil at the things you do not want to do? That is the second truth.
  20. With an understanding, Jahan continues making art. He endures.


  1. Jahan shows me an image he’s been working on: a study in momentum.
  2. Using a 3D programme, Jahan divided the simple motion of running into
    progressive phases and spliced them together. The result is his iconic spaceman,
    with his many arms and legs.
  3. My friends think this is my subconscious telling me that I’m running out of time
    but it’s actually capturing time, prolonging time, says Jahan.
  4. This ties in with his contemplation of humanity’s fate. Recently revisited
    for Intergalactic Dreams exhibition in 2019, the spaceman character was first
    conceptualised for the Collision in 2004 with New York-based graffiti artist Crash.
  5. A year before the show when Jahan was still based in Taiwan, he read that the
    country produced enough PET bottles that can encircle the earth.
  6. With that rate of consumption, the earth is screwed, thought Jahan. If the earth
    is done for, then there is no other recourse than to migrate to another planet.
  7. And Jahan created the spaceman and saw that it was good; this creation who sets
    forth for the stars to search for a new earth.
  8. Seven years later, the threat of climate change starts to show its teeth: icebergs
    break off from the Antarctic ice shelf; the extinction rate for floral and fauna
    climbs a thousand times higher than the natural baseline; extreme weathers are
    now commonplace.
  9. I have seen the Future, says Jahan. There is no Planet B.
  10. We all live in the present. We never really look to the past or paid too much
    attention to the future, says Jahan.
  11. His words hold echoes of George Santayana’s immortal phrase: “Those who
    cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
  12. Jahan points out that mankind has rebooted times before. The great civilisations of
    Egypt or the Mayan empire; these pinnacles of human culture that are easily eradicated.


  1. The last time he illegally painted was in 2005.
  2. Graffiti quickens Jahan’s soul. The rush of blood in his head, the pulse of
    adrenaline. There is a thrill into doing things you’re not supposed to do.
  3. When Jahan tags a building in Club Street, he ‘owns’ it. That’s his. That’s how
    you lay claim to a structure that you don’t own at all.
  4. At the time, Jahan was based in Taipei and ever so often he would swing by Hong
    Kong for a sojourn. One evening, swimming in the afterglow of alcohol he had drunk
    earlier, Jahan, to his delight, found paint leftover from an event.
  5. Near a junction at Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui, Jahan ran up to a concrete
    sloping planter and painted a mini-throw-up. With no stencils nor lookout, it was
    a quick execution in the 24-hour surveilled city.
  6. Jahan saw what he had made and it was good. But lo, Hong Kong’s finest spotted
    him. Jahan dropped the spray can and hoofed it. Even with his tag visible for all to
    see, the Hong Kong authorities never arrested him.
  7. It was an experience to be lauded. The art of getting up is never getting down,
    says Jahan.
  8. But Jahan sees it as a sign of his times, to walk the straight and narrow path.
    These days, street art is commodified. That’s the way it is. Street art is cool but
    it’s not graffiti.
  9. People commission Jahan to put his art on the wall.
  10. The form is the same but the essence is different. What was once a rebellious art
    form is now struck dead after 9/11. When the towers collapse, the many Argus eyes
    of surveillance arose.
  11. I have this idea that I’m a tiger in an urban jungle, says Jahan. Now, he feels that
    he’s a circus tiger; trapped behind gold bars and only let out to entertain.
  12. Alas, it is not as fun but that’s part of life. Graffiti, street art… they are never
    permanent. They will fade along with the seasons until the walls crumble down.


  1. Identity is a mercurial beast that forms according to its environment.
  2. After returning to Singapore (from Taiwan), the Esplanade asked if he could
    create a solo show about identity.
  3. In his time in Taiwan, many of their local press assumed Jahan is Taiwanese. Jahan
    wondered how he can talk about his Chinese-Singaporean identity to a global audience.
  4. For his exhibition Cherry Poke: Reconstituted Philosophies, Jahan took the object
    of his childhood obsession—a can of Ma Ling luncheon meat—and painted it.
  5. In 2001, Jahan sojourned in New York to meet with Jakuan Melendez from 360
    Toy Group.
  6. Now, there was a man named True that Jakuan introduced Jahan to. This man
    asked Jahan about his graffiti style and he showed it to him on his smartphone.
  7. True saw that it was good but knew it could be better. He said unto Jahan, you’re
    Chinese but why do you write like a kid from the Bronx?
  8. And Jahan wondered who was True to tell him what to write. Jakuan pulled
    Jahan aside and said unto him, that the man he spoke to, True is Phase 2.
  9. Sing forth the glory of his name: Phase 2 who created the style of graffiti
    writing called bubble letter or softie; Phase 2 who pioneered the use of arrows in
    graffiti; Phase 2 who elevated the art form, his work turning into ‘hieroglyphical
    calligraphic abstraction’.
  10. And Jahan reflected on what True had said. He started to hold his paintbrush in
    the Chinese mao bi style. He veered from writing in English to crafting his wildstyle
    in Mandarin. Jahan does not know if he started Chinese wildstyle but he is now
    known for that look.
  11. You can see Jahan’s Chinese name in his inimitable style. For two years Jahan
    laboured to translate his wildstyle into a 3D sculpture; his name buried in the
    complexity of the strokes.


  1. Jahan’s visions were something to behold. When he read about the Four Horsemen of
    the Apocalypse, he sees them like Akira on his motorbike, riders on iron horses. The
    Chinese folklore of a shen xian (‘deity’ in Mandarin) rising from the belly of the dragon
    can be interpreted as a spaceship’s hold opening up for TIE fighters to emerge from.
  2. It is how people back in the old days would perceive things. They see a smartphone
    and they draw from their own frame of references. This is a box, they say, behold, it
    lights with the glory and speaks with tongues of angels.
  3. Is it unfathomable then that when Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire or
    when the shepherds were visited by throngs of angels, that these visitors were the
    unidentifiable extraterrestrial sorts?
  4. That is what inspired Jahan to create his spaceship when he saw a mural painted
    in the 11th century in Georgia’s Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. He believes that divinity is
    extraterrestrial, that Jesus and the heavenly hosts are intergalactic visitors.
  5. If there is divine salvation, it would be found in the outer reaches of space.
    Alas, like the rest of us, Jahan is grounded. Merciless gravity anchoring him to
    terra firma.
  6. Five years ago, Jahan visually translated the Book of Genesis (before Adam and
    Eve’s expulsion) into an exhibition called Genesis: God’s Terrarium. Jahan sees the
    earth as a biodome and Adam and Eve as the start to God’s experiment.
  7. Origin myths are similar across cultures: a sacred force establishes order and
    reality into existence.
  8. The primordial Pangu separated the heaven and the earth, his body became the
    mountains and rivers; Raven released the first humans from a cockle shell and stole
    the sun, moon and stars and hung them in the sky; knowing that He’s unable to create
    the earth on by Himself, God worked with the Devil. [sic]
  9. Jahan’s messages are left open to interpretation. Even if the viewers miss the
    point with his message, he’d like to hear different points of view about his work.


  1. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And, in its place, a new heaven
    and a new earth.
  2. And our descendants were fruitful and multiply. They progress while the
    memory of their forebears lessens with each generation.
  3. One day, they will uncover relics from our present. They will be pored over.
  4. Our iPads, will they think it is our sacred tablets? Our Star Wars figurines, will
    they assume that it is our idols? Our magazines, will they read the text and think of
    them as holy writ?
  5. And what will they make of Jahan’s work then?
  6. What will be the takeaway when his sculpture is pulled from the ground and the
    dirt is dusted off its body?
  7. Will his message endure? Selah.