A Malaysian artist and architect, Red Hong Yi, is known for her unique technique of creating portraits of iconic people. Instead of using paints, canvas and brushes, she resorts to more unconventional materials, such as sunflower seeds, tea bags, candles, chopsticks, food or even a basketball.
Red is working for Hassell Architects in their Shanghai office. When she moved to the city after the graduation from university in Australia, she instantly fell for the city’s chaotic charm.
Sunflower Seeds Portrait
Shanghai’s environment inspired this Malaysian artist to create her first unconventional work, a portrait of Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei made entirely out of sunflower seeds. More than 100,000 sunflower seeds (or just about 7kg) were used for creating this portrait. This portrait was inspired by Ai Weiwei’s work, Sunflower Seeds, a huge collection of 100 million hand painted porcelain seeds, which was were exhibited in the Tate Museum of London.
Yao Ming Portrait Painted With a Basketball
Red Hong Yi’s next project was a large-scale portrait of basketballer Yao Ming. She decided to create this masterpiece using a basketball rolled in red paint and to film the whole process. Very soon after the uploading the video on Youtube, it went viral (you can watch video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naQPxXNyRWc).
Creative Portrait Made of Socks
Another piece of art inspired by Shanghai’s suburbs. “When I first moved to Shanghai, I stumbled upon an old residential alleyway and saw bamboo sticks poking out of windows with laundry hanging on them, waving in the air. To me, that was incredibly beautiful”, Hong Yi said. So she decided to make Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s portrait, using 750 pairs of socks and pins. Red chose Zhang because she liked how beautifully he portrays the Chinese tradition in his movies.
Creativity With Food
All of us who are sick and tired of all the food porn on Instagram, should be grateful to Hong Yi for turning this awful trend into something really beautiful. Red gave herself a challenge to come up with a piece of art every day. For this purpose, she used just her food and a white plate as a backdrop. Here are some of the works from ‘Creativity with Food’ series:
Arctic melting (made of a simple ice cream)
Campbell’s Tomato Soup (made of ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and oyster sauce)
Giant Squid Attack (Made of squid itself and his ink )
“Hello there, Richard Parker!” (Made of chopped carrots, white radish and dried prunes)
A dragon in a dragon fruit (Made of a dragon fruit itself and its seeds)
Red Hong Yi’s adaptation of Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’ (with long-grain rice and nori)
To create a clear image of the wave, Red Hong had to dab rice with water to separate each grain. This was a problem too because the nori shriveled up when in contact with moisture. Hence it took 1.5 hours to finish this work.
‘All you need is love…’ (with cherry tomatoes, nori and soy sauce) Unlike ‘The Great Wave’ this work took Hong Yi just 15 minutes.
Coffee Stains Portrait
This project is created special for people who are irritated by the coffee stains on their table.
Her “Coffee Stain Portrait” depicts Taiwanese singer Jay Chou, whose music video “Secret” begins with the fact that the protagonist picks up a cup of coffee with saucer.
“I like that I turned coffee cup stains – something that is seen as an annoyance and is often overlooked – into a piece of art that is meaningful and smells good,” says the Malaysian artist about her project.
Mark Zuckerberg “Facebook” PortraitBefore her trip to United States, Hong Yi has been working on portraits of famous Chinese people. But after this, she decided to do a portrait of a recognizable American in the memory of her trip. Eventually she came up with the idea of depicting Mark Zuckerberg, having somehow involved words “Face” and “Book”.
For some time Red didn’t know how to bring the idea to life. Inspiration came to Hong Yi when she was working on developing a facade for a project at the HASSELL. It was supposed to allow some sunlight in while blocking direct sun exposure – softer, indirect light.
This is how it works for the building
Using the same technique, the artist cut grooves into the 36 thickest books she could find (Game of Thrones of course). So she sliced off the edges of the pages to cast the shadows and contours which form Mark’s portrait.
Don’t worry Game of Thrones fans, books are still readable, now words were cut off!
This work took Hong Yi 7 days and Mark Zuckerberg’s face finally appeared!
Red did many other portraits of famous people through other awesome methods: she created a portrait of Adele using candles and fire as her painting materials, she used greens, green vegetables and fruits to create Jamie Oliver’s portrait, she even went on creating Jakie Chan’s portrait – it was made of 64,000 bamboo chopsticks!
Red, just keep up with your projects, keep doing what inspires you and you love… you’re awesome!