April 24, 2023
Illustrator Shin Oh nestles childhood memories of visiting traditional Malaysian shops and food stalls within tiny three-dimensional renderings, placing the immense affection she feels for such spaces in small confines. Part of two companion series titled 126³ Tiny Voxel Shops and 126³ Voxel Hawker Stalls, the digital works are made with voxels, or volumetric pixels used for building in popular video games like Minecraft and Roblox. Whether depicting a bakery or dim sum stand, Shin constructs each stall uniformly with two walls and soft color palettes “because nostalgic memories are warm, and hawker stalls always give me fuzzy warm feelings as they serve affordable and great food,” she says. The “hawker centre is hot and stuffy, too.”
126³ Tiny Voxel Shops was the first of the pair, which Shin created for a group exhibition in 2021. “During the pre-production phase of this project, I had conversations with my mother about the shops that we used to visit back then,” she shares. “I listed down as many shops as possible and filtered the list down to ten shops I think have unique visual characteristics that people can immediately recognize when they see them.” Included are both ubiquitous and rare sights, like a tailor’s studio and a well-stocked biscuit store. “There is no modern-style décor in this shop, no bright lights, no air-conditioning. One uniqueness about traditional biscuit shop is having lots of aluminum tins and glass jars, literally stacked from floor to ceiling,” she says.
This description is typical for Shin, who shares insights into her process and the objects she chooses for each space. Her ongoing series of open-air hawker stalls continues this approach with information about the dishes served from each kiosk. Bak Kut Teh, for example, translates to “meat bone tea” and is a broth with Chinese herbs and spices, pork, mushrooms, tofu, cabbage, oil rice, and fried dough known as youtiao, and Shin’s rendering of this stand includes various pots and friers used for making the dish. Although each space is imagined, the idea is to use such commonplace and easily interpretable items to create scenes that are understandable across cultures. “People can recognize the stalls from the objects even without having to understand the signboard or read the captions,” Shin shares. “In my opinion, food connects every human together, and it conquers all, from language barriers to cultural differences. I hope it’s the same for this foodie series.”
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