‘Red’ Hong Yi is a Malaysian artist-architect who is known as “the artist who likes to paint, but not with paint brushes.” She was given the nickname ‘Red’ because her family name, Hong, sounds like the word ‘red’ in Mandarin. Red’s grandparents and father left Shanghai, China in the ’60s during the start of the Cultural Revolution and moved to Malaysia where she was born and raised. Growing up, she heard stories about how life was like in China, but never imagined that one day she would find herself going to China to work after her university studies in Australia.
After graduating from architecture school, Red took up an offer to work for Australian architecture firm HASSELL in their Shanghai office, and was completely taken with the city with its contradicting charms and chaos. It was there that she discovered Chinese wholesale markets where all kinds of objects could be bought in bulk at cheap prices. This inspired her to start creating art using local everyday materials as her medium. Her first ‘unconventional’ art work, the portrait of artist Ai Weiwei using hundreds of thousands of sunflower seeds, was done in an old residential Shanghainese alleyway where she lived with her 90 year-old grandaunt.
One day in January 2012, Red dribbled a basketball in red paint into a giant portrait of basketballer Yao Ming, and the process was captured in video by a friend and uploaded onto the internet. The video became viral around the world. This was followed by several other videos of the process of the creation of her paintings: Adele done with melting tea lights, Zhang Yimou done with socks on bamboo sticks, Jay Chou done with coffee cup stains, Mark Zuckerberg done with paperbacks, all of which have been viewed by millions on both YouTube and Youku. Her unusual art and creativity has resulted in Red and her art being featured in media such as The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, ABC, NBC, CBC, CNN, ESPN, Daily Mail, Design Boom and many others. She was a speaker at the premier conference for creativity, the e.g. Conference in Monterey, California in 2012 and 2013, the Kuala Lumpur Design Forum July 2013, the APEC Young Entrepreneurs Conference in Beijing in May 2013, TEDxKL in August 2013 and guest-lectured at China Academy of Arts and the design universities, NABA and Domus Academy, in Milan. Red has created an art installation for the commercial for Hewlett Packard's Ink Advantage printer, and the TV commercial in which she was featured is being shown in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Other clients include Nespresso Italy, Unilever China, AT&T USA, BBDO Singapore, Mercedes Benz Beijing, Florette France, Esquire and Astro Malaysia. Red was awarded one of the “12 Brilliant Malaysians 2013” by Esquire Magazine Malaysia, “40 Under 40 Designers” by Perspective Global Hong Kong and presented with the “Young Entrepreneur Award” by the Malaysian Australian Alumni Council.
Red graduated with a BA in Planning and Design (2007) and MA in Architecture (2010) at the University of Melbourne. She was awarded the Melbourne Abroad scholarship to complete part of her masters at the Technical University of Delft, Netherlands. Red founded Studio Hong Yi in January 2013 and is currently based in Shanghai. Red wants to continue to make art using mundane, ordinary and often overlooked objects, to show that we can use anything around us as material and that everything has its potential. She also aims to travel to different countries learn about their local art and culture, and reflect that in her art.
Through her art and the internet, Red hopes to connect people throughout the world.