Cover Photo credit: Red Hong Yi official website

The Sabah-born visionary shares how she dances around creativity each day and consciously shuts out distractions like social media

Hong Yi, also known as Red, is the Malaysian artist whose vivid imagination often led to the creation of artworks that are thought-provoking and wondrous. One of the reasons for the latter is her knack for using everyday materials to convey contemporary interests. The Sabahan-born lass tells us that her work stems from an intrigue for her Chinese-Malaysian culture, as well as significant of her generation.

“I will continue to create until I’m 99, if I get to that age!” Hong Yi exclaims when we bring up the subject of her goals as an artist. “I’ve always been interested in expressing feelings, emotions and experiences in a visual way.”

Hong Yi describes her daily approach to creativity as experimental. Her fundamental goal is to invite viewers to reconsider their preconceived ideas when they look at her art.

The internationally renowned artist, whose clientele include Facebook, Google and Mandarin Oriental, was recently declared by Sotheby’s Institute as one of 11 Art World Entrepreneurs You Should Know In 2018. Despite the international fame, she remains down-to-earth and relatable. But as an artist, she loves nothing more than to step out of her comfort zone.

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What’s Keeping Her Busy These Days

"At this moment, I have a few commissioned art projects by clients who are hoping to have their pieces done by Chinese New Year, so work is up to my neck! I have a small team of about 4 with me now so that’s really helpful."

How A Day In Her Life Looks Like

"My daily life is actually not that exciting—and that’s intentional. I have learned that I work best when I have a routine and when I have a team around me. I have to step into a space that’s clearly for work. Working a 9-to-5 schedule from Monday to Friday keeps me sane, like I’m not living in an abnormal bubble detached from my friends and family. My day includes emailing, a bit of tinkering on social media (which I’m trying to limit, thanks to apps like Stayfocusd) and working on my art - sketching, sticking, cutting, pinning things together etc."

The Importance Of Me-Time

"I love me-time! While I enjoy going to events and meeting new people, I’m very happy spending time in solitude, reading a book, trying out a new recipe, working on a new project (perhaps a children’s book?)."

I want to experiment and possibly fail and try again. The process of experimenting is the fun part.
Hong Yi

On Improving Technique And Perception As An Artist

"I try to stay curious and keep experimenting with new materials and methods. I don’t want to become lazy—sticking to one method and one style because people respond to it sells and probably gets lots of attention but I want to experiment, fail and try again. The process of experimenting is the fun part."

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Her Working Style

"This probably comes as a surprise but half of my work is done on the computer. I like to merge high tech processes with traditional art methods. I model a lot of my work out before actually making them so I have an idea of how much materials I need, how it will be built and how it would actually look like. I also love traditional techniques and often think how to represent the way a sculpture or a painting can be done today."

Introducing Sustainability To The Art World

"I’ve thought about it more than when I started making big installations in 2012, and that’s because of the awareness that we now have about how our actions impact the environment. I think art has the power to touch people in a way no numbers or data can, and as artists it is important to consider this to create awareness on sustainability. Now, I’m definitely more mindful about the materials and objects I use and what message it sends out. That said, an artist’s role is to express a particular idea, and an artwork usually isn’t a single-use disposable piece."

The Art Piece That Was Her First Big Break

"It was the piece of Yao Ming painted with a basketball that was uploaded onto YouTube. I doubt it would have the same effect today—there’s so much content on the internet now."

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How To Push Boundaries & Spot Artistic Potential

"Staying focused on the same object until you get that 'a-ha' moment has always worked for me. I find if I work on a few new materials at the same time too distracting and I do not get much done."

Time Management

"Limit mindless scrolling on social media and on the phone to a minimum. Last month, I was shocked to find out that I spent an average of 5 hours screen time on my phone. I now limit my time to 10 minutes of Facebook and Instagram on my desktop, and 30 minutes on my phone."

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Advice To Aspiring Artists

"Keep on working and show your work. Find a group of artists whom you can hang out with to talk art and even create art together."

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