Red Hong Yi: The Artist Who Paints Without A Paintbrush

In our first episode of the new season of Hello Zafigo, we spoke to the contemporary artist, Red Hong Yi, on her creative process, how many tea bags it took to create a portrait of a teh tarik man, and why bringing your heart to work is the best thing an artist can do.
In our first episode of the new season of Hello Zafigo, we spoke to the contemporary artist, Red Hong Yi, on her creative process, how many tea bags it took to create a portrait of a teh tarik man, and why bringing your heart to work is the best thing an artist can do. (Photo by David Yeow)

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“Every canvas is a journey,” – Helen Frankenthaler 

Travelling is what many of us turn to when we need a break, or when we need inspiration from cultures and lifestyles beyond our own. When the pandemic hit, exploring the world stopped.

It was a tough readjustment, but we soon found joy in making our own bread, working out from home, spending more time with our furbabies, and making do with what we had available to us – something Red Hong Yi has been practising for a long time. 

The Malaysian-Chinese artist, known best for ‘painting without a paintbrush’, creates stunning portraits using items that are readily available, like socks, chopsticks, and even tea leaves! To the uninitiated, the choice of material may seem random or something that isn’t really aesthetically-pleasing, but that’s not the case when Red pulls it together.

Each element she chooses to use represents a deeper meaning to the subject, some address pain points too, as seen with the I Am Not A Virus series which was in response to the anti-Asian racism that we saw at the start of COVID-19 (and still continue to see).

 

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We wondered what her creative process is like and how staying in different cities influences her work. So, we decided to pick her brain for the first episode of Hello Zafigo Season 2. 

In our hour-long chat, Red shares a defining moment of her childhood, how she navigates her current projects when she’s unable to work onsite, and why it’s important to bring your heart to work. 

Watch the episode below: 

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Zafigo
Zafigo is dedicated to the woman traveller, offering tips, guides and insights to make travel – be it for work or leisure – better, safer and more interesting. Focusing on selected cities in Asia and the Middle East, we also serve as a platform and community for women to share their experiences and knowledge with fellow travellers.