Oak + Fort: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where does the inspiration behind Urban Koi come from, and how did you come up with the name?
Koi: I am an art director, photographer, and scientist at Columbia University Medical Center.
I have always had a deep fondness for art and science. I am often asked how I balance two seemingly different fields. Although art and medicine are two distinct fields, I feel that they are more interconnected than one would think. When one formulates an experiment or treats a patient, one must be creative and critically think of the best solution—each project and each individual is unique and may require a spectrum of methods.
Urban Koi encapsulates two meanings.
The first is literal and depicts a koi fish dwelling in the urban sea. Much of my childhood upbringing is rooted in Brooklyn and I feel a deep connection to New York City. It is said that koi swim up rivers and climb waterfalls with bravery like samurai warriors. Hence, the koi symbolises courage, perseverance, and strong character. These elements are reflective of my life and are what I value as a person.
‘Koi’ is also a Japanese homophone for ‘love’, and alludes to the second meaning—my adoration for cities. All of these elements percolate into my work—the moody, sort of gritty urban textures, but portrayed in a softer, subtler way.
Oak + Fort: Your Instagram is filled with minimal, muted tones. What is it about this style appeals to you?
Koi: There is a certain tranquil feeling that is exuded when I am surrounded by quiet colours—I find muted tones to be mysterious, yet soothing. The hues of the sky at the break of dawn, the cerulean reflection that is illuminated by water—the ambience and mystifying essence of melancholic tones in nature lull me into deep reveries. I am also drawn to shadows and the scarcity of light, so my work tends to emanate a dark, moody timbre.
Oak + Fort: What are some of your favourite spots in the city to escape to and draw inspiration from?
Koi: I often escape to DUMBO, Brooklyn. I am enamoured by the abandoned industrial factories, cobblestone streets, and old train tracks—there is just so much history contained in its heart. I often take walks by Brooklyn Bridge Park, sample fare, and explore little shops. One of my favourites is Shibui, a Japanese antique shop hidden underground. It really feels like a brief step into Japan. I also frequent the rooftop lounge at the Wythe with close friends for a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline. I love Greecologies, a Greek yoghurt lab and café in Little Italy—I am decidedly keen with their menu, interior design, and lush courtyard. Lastly, I adore The Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as I am particularly fond of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It explores the wonders of medieval Europe through its art, gardens, and architecture.
Oak + Fort: As a photographer, which moments do you like to capture the most?
Koi: Photography is my catharsis—I am inspired when I travel and I delve into a multiplicity of cultures. I am enticed by wistfulness, minimalism, and idiosyncrasies—the harmony of symmetry and asymmetry in life. I tend to photograph moments that we sometimes take for granted. I see the quiescent beauty around me and I like to capture the transient moments to show others that there is elegance everywhere, even in the ordinary.
Oak + Fort: How do you stay connected with the creative community in New York?
Koi: Ever since I was a child, I have been remarkably shy about showcasing my work to others. Instagram made it easier for me to share my daily musings, and through the platform, I found it thrilling to learn that there are other passionate creatives all over the world. From its inception, I found myself connecting with a vast multitude of creative talents—I even bonded with my best friend, Louise (@glassfauna), over our mutual interests in photography and science, and we have been communicating daily ever since.