Art

A unique art genre in Hong Yi's splash of red

“Red” Hong Yi showcasing her portrait of Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi

By Elaine Mah and Amy Yee
Pictures by Oliver Majaham

Sabahan Hong Yi, popularly known as Red who has recently taken the art world by storm with her unique art creations, premiered her first artwork in Sabah last week at the Sutera Harbour Marina & Country Club, Kota Kinabalu.

Hong YiHong Yi's fame began when a video clip of her portrait of basketball superstar Yao Ming using nothing but a basketball, went viral on Youtube.

Yi, who dubs herself an artist without a paintbrush, has since completed portraits of various international personalities using unconventional tools. She has created a portrait of Taiwanese singer Jay Chou with coffee stains, Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei using 10,000 sunflower seeds, Chinese film director Zhang Yi Mou with 750 pairs of socks and bamboo sticks, and popular social network founder Mark Zuckerberg using 36 books.

She graduated from the University of Melbourne in Australia with a master's degree in Achitecture. She then took a job with HASSELL, an Australian architecture firm based in Shanghai. Currently, Yi has taken 6 months' leave to pursue her art dreams.

Yi’s latest installation is that of Burmese Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, which the artist took three days to create using 2,000 carnations and food dye.

Hong Yi addressing the crowd who came to view her installation at Sutera Harbour

She told reporters that she decided to create a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi because she was moved and touched by the latter’s "love and kindness" to her people.

“She inspires me to strive to be a better person,” Yi said.

The use of flowers as a medium for some of her artworks is inspired by her subject's special life experiences as well. She learnt that Aung San Suu Kyi’s father General Aung San used to tie flowers in her hair when she was a little girl. She continued having flowers in her hair when she grew up, especially after her father died. She said this is her way of remembering him.

“I thought that was very touching. I also think it’s her way of showing femininity through all the stresses and strains that she had endured as an opposition leader,” Yi added.

The artist holding up a red carnation which forms a part of her portrait. Red, according to Yi symbolizes love, passion and sacrifice

The portrait took only three days to complete, but the planning took approximately one month, according to Yi. Sabah’s tropical climate also came as a challenge in the art piece as the heat made it necessary for Yi to spray the carnations with water repeatedly.

The 27-year-old artist credits her architectural training as an important part of her art.

“If I didn’t study architecture, my artworks would probably be quite different. Architecture has shaped the way I think about things in 3D,” she said.

The artist also cited Picasso as an influence in her artworks. She learnt about Picasso from an art teacher as a child in Kota Kinabalu.

The social media feature in her art life too. She said the internet offers an important means of sharing her work with the world.

"We're living in exciting times which enable us to share our work. But it also has a lot to do with being brave enough to share and connect with people through the Internet,” she said.

Yi also remarked that one's feeling of insecurity and the pressure to achieve perfection often hinders one's artistic development. .

"As an artist or a designer very often one is willing to share only when one is happy with one's artwork. That's always been the case for me, but when I went to China I decided that I was going to show the world,” she explained.

Back in Sabah, the artist is looking for things Malaysian to inspire some of her future artworks. - Insight Sabah

Posted on January 28, 2013

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