Before he found his calling as an architect, Lim Eu Jin had dreams of becoming a comic-book artist. As a child, he would attempt to reproduce his favourite comic art and imagine it was his own.
It was not the plot, but rather the artwork contained within the pages of the comics, that reeled him in and kept him coming back for more.
“I used to follow action comics a lot because I hated reading,” recalls Lim of his childhood.
“So comics with a lot of movement and gestures are my favourite, even till today. It is really a skill to deliver stories without any use of words.”
Today, the 28-year-old from Kuala Lumpur has found a way to merge both loves – comics and architecture – with projects that straddle the fine line between architecture, orthographic drawings and the sequential graphic novel art form.
By his hectic standards, Lim is having a very busy year-end with his art. In October, his Tracing Spaces solo show was held at KL’s Aku Cafe and he also contributed artwork to the Tracing Italo Calvino multi-disciplinary exhibition at Booku in KL lasy month.
This past weekend, his “hybrid” project Drawing The Blue Mansion was on display at the UN_A Collective exhibition at Port Commune in Petaling Jaya. The group show, which started on Dec 4, also features works by artists and architectural designers like Ajim Juxta, Farah Fadzil, Pamela Tan, Shamin Sahrum and Zan Nureen.
Lim’s Drawing The Blue Mansion – a book and art – is inspired by the iconic 19th-century Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, aka The Blue Mansion, located in the World Heritage Site of George Town in Penang. His Drawing The Blue Mansion book was launched in Penang late last year.
Lim’s story, based on the romanticised daily life of Cheong Fatt Tze and his seventh wife, Tan Tay Po, takes place within this architectural wonder, with intricate detailing lovingly executed in black and white drawings in Drawing The Blue Mansion. There is also a pop-up model where you can make your very own Blue Mansion.
All 15 drawings from the series will be shown at the UN_A Collective exhibition.
This artistic drawing project is a collaboration with Laurence Loh and Lin Lee Loh-Lim of Arkitek LLA, conservation architect of the Blue Mansion.
This series follows on the heels of Drawing Soane’s, which is set in Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, which Lim completed last year as part of the 15-week Masters by Conversion course at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Arts in Scotland.
The locations featured in his works are picked for having “unique hidden stories” behind the architecture.
“John Soane’s Museum was selected for her melancholic story, and Blue Mansion for her romantic love story,” he shares.
But what started Lim on the path of merging architectural drawings with manga-style art can be traced back to his days as a university student, where he did an elective on comics while working on his thesis at the same time.
“They were both on the topic of storytelling. In my attempt to prepare one work to submit for both courses, I accidentally but luckily discovered this hybrid medium. I didn’t want my thesis to have the typical ‘cold and dry’ arrows or numbers for the site analysis, and in keeping with the storytelling nature of the project, wanted to explain them through a series of comics,” he explains.
In 2014, A Repository For The Fairy Tales Culture was created, marking what would be the first project of its kind for this young man. The story revolves around a boy in pyjamas running around Copenhagen in Denmark, chasing after a mysterious shadow (resembling Hans Christian Andersen’s) to return a book he had dropped.
After leaving his architectural job in London last year and returning to Malaysia to work on these drawings and building projects locally, Lim, who works as a full-time architect with John Bulcock of Design Unit, currently has his sights set on low-cost housing for his next architectural-comics project.
“It is a little more modest and humble compared to the other buildings in my drawings, but it definitely has a lot of architectural experiences and qualities in them. This low-cost housing is not as well-known or well taken care of, but I realise that it has so much potential in telling stories we can learn from. I am hoping to produce a complete storybook on this next,” he says.
Lim hopes that such projects will help nurture creativity and promote an appreciation for drawings and spatial stories.
With architectural drawings, for instance, he points out that there are so many qualities that can be easily missed if computer-aided “bland drawings” are all that we have to work with. Perhaps then, infusing architectural drawings with a comic-style sensibility will give it a new lease of life that will change perceptions and win over hearts and minds.
“There is a fine line between comics and architectural drawings, whether in their layout or drawing technique. They both try to narrate a story in the most efficient and cinematic way,” says Lim, before concluding, “There is so much an architect can learn from comic artists and vice versa; one makes stories in and out of buildings, and the other makes buildings for stories.”
UN_A Collective exhibition is on at Port Commune, No.3, Jalan 51/201, Seksyen 51 Petaling Jaya in Selangor, Dec 4-16. Opening hours 9.30am-6.30pm. Call 03-7781 2228 or visit www.facebook.com/PORTcommune/. More info on Lim Eu Jin at www.cargocollective.com/eujinlim.