Kai Oh’s prismatic images depict a mishmash of slimy fish, juicy fruits and deep-fried meats, digitally rendered against backdrops of concrete, metal and stone. The artist is drawn to visuals that coalesce into a ‘weird harmony’, creating collages that at first seem inscrutable, but later crystallise into familiar objects, shapes and textures. Her editing technique sees objects fading out and slicing haphazardly across the frame in an effort to reflect the idiosyncratic experience of city living. ‘Most of the time, sceneries of the city are too weird to accept immediately.’
Cityfood is primarily concerned with the juxtaposition of the city and nature, and how the latter has been forced to adapt to the former. Pairing seemingly natural artefacts with the manmade, Kai uses the medium of collage to blur the lines between the two until it is no longer clear what is “natural” and what is artificial. Food might be the perfect substance through which to explore this intersection, because all food is, ostensibly, derived from a plant or animal. ‘The city and food are both modified nature…from the food on the dining table to the city streets, I see a similar kind of awkwardness there.’
Kai’s visual language truly comes into its own through the use of her iPhone camera, which gives the images a flat, saturated appearance. For a young artist like Kai, owning and using a smartphone is almost second nature, and has, in turn, shaped her relationship to image culture. Unruly and impulsive, Kai’s website bears strong resemblance to that of a Tumblr page; an image thread titled ‘scrap scrap – random images from Kai and Yun’, births new images almost every week, with no clear relation to the next.
But perhaps, more than anything, Kai’s decision to use her iPhone camera is a practical one. Unlike larger professional cameras, recent iPhone models are handy to use and have a surprisingly sharp lens – a well suited device to Kai’s spontaneous approach to image making. ‘All of sudden a streetlight turns on. Wind blows. People pass by. You have to act fast, and the iPhone is perfect for that.’