Staff Reporters
Apr 23, 2021

The Malaysian artist who ‘paints without a brush’

INSPIRATION STATION: Red Hong Yi has been making waves with stunning, thoughtful pieces using everyday objects.

Red Hong Yi at work
Red Hong Yi at work

Contemporary Malaysian artist Red Hong Yi is known for creating mixed-media installations by reinterpreting everyday materials. The (mostly) physical pieces she creates aim to consider perceptual habits that explore the themes of women and race. But recently, Red has ventured into making art that delve into the decline of the environment, sustainability and consumption.

For Nespresso, she created a piece earlier this month called ‘Kaleidoscope’ using recycled coffee capsules. Within the installation, mirrors were used to project the “infinite reflections” of colourful Nespresso capsules, representing the infinitely recyclable nature of the aluminium capsules. The capsules were flattened, fanned out and overlapped to create a scaly design to spell out ‘Doing is Everything’.


Red also made headlines for her work on a recent cover of Time. For the publication’s latest cover story on climate change, Red and her team constructed a 7.5x10-foot world map out of 50,000 green-tipped matchsticks. She then set the piece on fire to depict a burning world.

According to Red, she designed the dimensions and positions for the matchsticks on a computer, and laser-cut the holes onto a board before the painstaking task of inserting each matchstick by hand. Her team also sprayed layers of fire-retardant paint on the front and back of the board to make sure that the fire didn’t inhale the entire piece. The green matchsticks, placed at varying heights for topographic effect, served as a metaphor for trees.



Separetely, to shed light on anti-Asian hate in the wake of the pandemic, Red created a series of pieces using materials including green tea leaves, chilli flakes, cake sprinkles, fennel seeds and purple rice.  


You've arrived at Inspiration Station, a weekly look at imaginative and artistic work from creators of all kinds across Asia-Pacific. Or sometimes, we might ask a creative about what they're inspired by outside of work. Step off for a minute to recharge your creative batteries and find inspiration for that next big idea of yours further down the track.


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