Welcome to Episode 2!
Today’s guest is Red Hong Yi – a Malaysian architect turned full-time artist known for painting without a paintbrush! One of the sweetest, friendliest and most talented people I know and am privileged to call a friend. 🙂
You might have heard of her or seen her work displayed somewhere, whether in publications like the South China Morning Post, Straits Time, Prestige, artventures with Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia, or more recently on Mashable about her “I Am Not A Virus” 2020 series.
Who is Red Hong Yi?
Hong Yi grew up in Sabah, which is located on the East coast of Malaysia (yay, East Malaysians!). We discuss what her childhood was like, her influences, and the kind of art she did.
Art being something that she was in fact very active in from a young age!
Working as an Architect
While she had a desire to go into art, and even once dreamt of working for PIXAR, she decided, in the end, to study architecture at the University of Melbourne.
Upon graduation, she moved over to Shanghai and we talked about what that was like. The people, the culture, and again, the entrepreneurial spirit that was so prevalent among the youth of Shanghai! And how those influences, including an important trip to Yiwu International Trade Market, resulted in her friend filming a timelapse video of her Yao Ming portrait.
Quite unexpectedly, her portrait of the famous Chinese NBA player went viral and was picked up by the likes of NBA and Gizmodo.com!
Pivoting into Art
While this craziness was happening, Hong Yi was still working at her architecture firm, HASSELL.
Soon after, she received a call from Michael Hawley who invited her to the EG Conference (who wrote the commencement speeches for Larry Page & Steve Jobs amongst others!). This conference proved to be a huge turning point for her as she became exposed to people doing incredible things, including other artists, musicians, astronauts, and chefs.
Her parents also attend the EG Conference and as Hong Yi put it:
The Artist Who Paints without a Paintbrush
Soon after, Hong Yi decided to quit her job as an architect to give art a shot. And we discuss what those initial days were like, the financial considerations and how she decided on the kind of “brand” she wanted to be.
Her trademark approach to art is painting without a paintbrush and she achieves this by creating mixed-media installations by reinterpreting everyday materials through the accumulation of objects. By combining traditional craftsmanship and digital technology, she creates work that considers perceptual habits and preconceptions on the chosen objects and subjects, expressing the themes of women and race.
Achievements to Date
Needless to say, she has achieved extraordinary success!
And her work has been exhibited at H Queens in Hong Kong, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, World Economic Forum in Davos (the Teh Tarik Man!), and Anchorage Museum in Alaska. Collectors of her work include JP Morgan Chase Bank and actor Jackie Chan.
View this post on Instagram
Throwback to that time I dipped, dyed and installed 20,000 teabags. Titled “Teh Tarik Man” (“Teh Tarik” means “pulled tea” in Malay), this piece was displayed at the World Economic Forum in Davos 2015...whoa this is a 5 year old baby now! 😂 Grateful for the crew who worked night and day with me to make this possible!
Her art has also been featured in publications including Wall Street Journal, TIME, and New York Times, as well as in JP Morgan Chase’s commercial campaign, “Gift for Baba”, in 2018 where she performed the leading and critical role of artist. She created an artwork made of tea leaves and that commercial was aired throughout North America during some of the biggest sporting events of the year including Super Bowl LII, which was viewed by 103.4 million viewers, and the 2018 World Cup, which was seen by an average of 1.98 million viewers per game.
Hong Yi has spoken in conferences around the world, including EG Conference in California, the ASEAN Young Entrepreneur’s Conference in Beijing, TEDx in Kuala Lumpur, and in institutions such as Domus Academy in Italy, Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts in Shanghai, and the MIT Media Lab in Boston. She has been offered art residencies at 18th Street Art Centre in Los Angeles and the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai in 2020.
Sotheby’s Institute has named her one of the “11 art world entrepreneurs you should know”. Tatler Magazine has named her one of Asia’s most influential voices in 2020.
How did she do it? What’s next?
Hong Yi’s journey has been anything but conventional and I loved how we went deep into the behind-the-scenes of what it took to get to where she is, including:
- How she put together some of her most popular work including the Teh Tarik Man and the Jackie Chan bamboo stick collaboration;
- Where she gets her inspiration from;
- Who “gave” her name “Red”;
- The role of social media in her work;
- How she charges clients for her work;
- The realities of being your own boss & why that might not be for everyone (and that’s ok!);
- Striking a balance behind taking on work for financial reasons versus artistic inclinations;
- Creating impact behind her work;
- How COVID-19 has affected her & how she stays connected with other creatives like Von Wong (another guest on the STIMY podcast);
- Collaborating with other local artists back in her hometown of Sabah;
- What it takes for someone to succeed as she has; and
- What the future holds for her.
If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:
- Yulia Brodskaya: Paper artist who’s worked for the Guardian, Oprah Winfrey, Issey Miyake, Wimbledon etc.
- Joe Sidek: Malaysian’s top festival director of the George Town Festival
- Alena Murang: Sarawakian sape player, visual artist & heritage advocate
- Saw Teong Hin: Director, Producer & Writer (most known for directing Puteri Gunung Ledang & Hai Ki Xin Lor)
- Benjamin Von Wong: Photographer/social artivist who’s generated over 100 million organic views with his work in the social impact space
- Red Hong Yi: Artist who paints without a paintbrush whose clients include Google, Facebook, Nespresso. Her artwork was recently featured on TIME Magazine’s 26 April special issue on climate change & TIMEPieces (TIME’s new NFT community initiative)
If you enjoyed this episode, you can:
Leave a Review
If you enjoy listening to the podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on iTunes / Apple Podcasts. The link works even if you aren’t on an iPhone. 😉
Send an Audio Message
I’d love to include more listener comments & thoughts into future STIMY episodes! If you have any thoughts to share, a person you’d like me to invite, or a question you’d like answered, send an audio file / voice note to [email protected]
- You can reach Red Hong Yi via her blog, Facebook and Instagram
- Subscribe to the STIMY Podcast for alerts on future episodes at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher & RadioPublic
- Leave a review on what you thought of this episode HERE or the comment section of this post below.
Episode 2: Red Hong Yi
Red Hong Yi: And at the time I just started out. So I thought, okay, I have to do another portrait of like an American or something like that. So it's more relevant to the crowd there.
And yeah, I think that was when my parents realized that, Oh my gosh this fun side project is actually happening. It's real. And, I think it freaked them out.
And then in the end we decided that mom and dad should go over for the conference too. So they came with me and that was when they realized that, Oh, my daughter is not that crazy after all. There is a room filled with crazy, you see?.
Ling Yah: Hey everyone. So glad to have you here and welcome to episode two of the, So This Is My Why podcast. I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah. And you just heard a snippet of today's guests, Red Hong Yi. A Chinese Malaysian contemporary artist, otherwise known as Red. An artist who paints without the paintbrush.
An architect by training, Hong Yi was working in Shanghai where she did the portrait of the Chinese NBA player, Yao Ming with red paint using a basketball.
Soon after the video went viral on YouTube. Gizmodo.com and even the NBA picked it up. And she soon found herself inundated with newspapers, magazines, and websites from all over the world, clamoring to interview her. She has since done a wide variety of art pieces, including a portrait of the Teh Tarik Man - a man who does pulled tea in Malaysia - for the World Economic Forum in Davos using 20,000 teabags and with Hollywood action superstar, Jackie Chan, using 64,000 bamboo chopsticks tied together.
This is her story of how she grew up in Sabah, Malaysia, the steps she took to build her life up as a full time artist and the impact that COVID-19 has had on her in recent times.
I think you'll enjoy it.
Are you ready?
Hi, Hong Yi, I'm glad to have you with me today.
Red Hong Yi: Hey Ling Yah. Thanks for having me.
Ling Yah: You're welcome. So I think a lot of people know who you are. You are an architect by training, but you have spent the past eight years pursuing a rather unconventional career as an artist who paints without paintbrush.
So I thought before we jump into all the exciting things you're doing now, could you give us an idea of what you were like when you were young and growing up in Sabah?
Red Hong Yi: Oh, the first thought is I was quite a tomboy, I was always out just chasing ducks and chickens and pigeons, and picking insects from leaves and climbing trees and catching tadpoles.
So I was quite outdoorsy and very curious.
I think growing up in Sabah and detached from the capital city, I've always felt like oh, all the actions in KL, all the art competitions. When is someone going to actually pay attention to what I'm doing here?
Ling Yah: And you said art competitions. So did you do art when you were really young?
Red Hong Yi: Yeah, I think I've always been interested in art and I think most kids are interested in painting and coloring and things like that. But I think since I was in kindergarten, I do remember getting praised by teachers and my parents like they would go, oh, wow, like this coloring page is done really well.
And I think maybe it was that boost of confidence that really made me go, okay. Maybe I'm good at this. So I think that was what really made me go, Oh, maybe I can spend more time doing this. So I did find that whole comfort and security in that kind of identity of being able to draw better.
I don't know. I think about that a lot. And I go, Oh, if I was that age and someone said I was good at running or something like that. Would that actually make me want to commit more to that? It makes me think a lot about that,
Ling Yah: But I think you also took it a step further cause you not only started at drawing things like Sesame Street, but you also started drawing comic strips and selling it to your friends.
Red Hong Yi: I did that with a group of friends and I still remember who they are. It was a group of like five of us actually and after school we'd have like a meeting and go, ok, this is your magazine, this my magazine.
We have to have competitions. We have to have fun facts and things like that. We have to rent it out for 10 cents each and then we're going to try to get more people reading it by having competitions. And this is the amount of pocket money that we're going to put aside. Right. So back then, it didn't feel like a business thing.
It was more like we wanted it eyeballs to look at whatever news we were trying to spread in our exercise books. So that was really cute and endearing. I think that was like the early form of blogging in an exercise book.
Ling Yah: And did you get the eyeballs?
Red Hong Yi: So we have like 50 kids in a class, I would say...
Ling Yah: You sold to all of them?
Red Hong Yi: No, no, no. It was one exercise book. You read it for the first hour and then you're done. And then you're the second person in line. So we had a whole list of who was going to rent it.
Every week we updated it. So it's like, Oh, update, you know, just continue reading it. So it would get more and more filled up.
Ling Yah: Do you remember how much you were making at the time?
Red Hong Yi: 10 cents each time you read it? We didn't really make a lot.
I think I was not as capitalist. It was more like, Oh, it's so nice to receive some money. There was no real goal. I wish someone had coached me though, but I felt so bad. Our teachers confiscated it after a year.
I remember someone reported us, that we were making money in class.
I actually remember who reported us.
Ling Yah: Oh no, that person is blacklisted for life.
Red Hong Yi: Oh my gosh. And then the teacher came in and she was like, I heard that there are these magazines going around in class. You guys have to stop this. You're going into your Primary 6? We're having like, our UPSR right. Major exams, no more distractions.
Don't distract your classmates. So we stopped. We did this in primary four and five.
Ling Yah: For those who don't know is when you were 10 to 11 years old. And your parents know about this?
Red Hong Yi: I'm sure they know. Yeah. They mentioned it. I think I would still have these books somewhere in my storeroom or something.
Ling Yah: So they gave it back to you in the end.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah, they did, or we didn't bring it back to school or something like that.
I have only fond memories of it. It came from such a pure place.
Ling Yah: So your dad is an engineer and your mom was a banker, but now she is baking a storm online as chomp mom ,cooking everything from artisan bread to purple sweet potato mantou.
So do you see yourself in them?
Red Hong Yi: Oh, I think, yeah, I mean, they've influenced me in so many ways, for sure.
I think if I had to attribute any of my success to anyone, it would be my mom and dad, even though when I started going into art full time, they bawled. They cried.
Dad's always been very structural, very technical, very practical.
One of my earliest memories of him trying to train the way me and my brothers thought through things was he sat me and my brother down and he had a can of Coke and two glass bottles.
One was really thin, like a test tube. And the other one was kind of wide and fat and short and he would pour the Coke into both.
And he asked me, being the eldest one, which one do you want? Right.
And I was like, Oh, of course the test tube one, that's more. There's more in there.
And he was like, okay, Ming. Then you get like that one. Cause his sister wants the better one.
And he would pour it both into an equal size mug. And I'd realized that I had the one with less Coke, so he'd go.
Yeah. So I'm like perception, right? And selfishness and things like that. All these two themes came out.
I was like, dang dad. So he's the type that's always very practical and very technical. Whereas my mom was the creative one, always trying out new things, cooking us all sorts of cakes and things like that.
And then she was the one who taught me about Picasso and Van Gogh . So there was a bit of both.
Ling Yah: And I heard that Picasso is one of the people that you look up to?
Red Hong Yi: I really love his art. I wouldn't have liked him as a personal kind of person he's got through so many women. Oh my gosh.
He's used them as his muse and it's, I mean, he's really expressed it through his art and it's really impacted the way I hope to express myself through my art too.
Ling Yah: Did you never want to do art as you were growing up? I understand that you wanted to work at Pixar at one point, but then you end up doing architecture!
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. Yeah. I've always loved art, but always thought of it as not a very practical thing to do. So I thought architecture would be good cause it's a mix of technical and creative. I remember, before flying over to Australia for university, I sent my parents down. I said, I really want to be an artist animator.
You know, that's my dream. They're like, no, no, no, no, no. Just get your degree first and then figure out what you want to do.
And I think I thought that after I got my architecture degree, that would be it because I was pretty happy doing architecture until I started making art on the side and was discovered for it.
That made me think things again.
Ling Yah: What was the thought process behind you deciding to graduate from Melbourne university in 2010 and then moving to Shanghai?
Red Hong Yi: So I graduated in Melbourne 2010. And started applying to jobs. Hardly any jobs came out of Australia. I think I really want it to stay back in Australia at the time.
And, but the economy was not doing well. Construction industry was slowing down. Asia was rising really quickly. I think I sent out like 200 CVS over time, I had like, maybe 20 replies, 10 of them were like, Oh, we like your stuff, but we don't have positions .We will follow you under whatever. They never got back to me.
But the other 10 were mostly from Singapore, Malaysia, and China and Hong Kong.
And I decided to go with HASSELL - the firm that I eventually worked for - because they're an Australian company. And I thought, okay, maybe after a year I can get transferred back to Australia. That was the, kind of like the secret plan.
So I never saw myself staying on in Shanghai for more than a year, but I ended up staying for like three and a half, four years and I wanted to stay longer. I really, really enjoyed my time there.
And I think Shanghai was a bit of like a bouncing board for me to venture out into other things too.
Ling Yah: So, what was it like when you first moved to Shanghai?
Red Hong Yi: I think my heart will always be like a part of it will always be there because, well, firstly, my grandparents are from Shanghai, so I do have relatives there.
I reconnected with them. I lived in one of their super old houses that like the ceiling was falling off and things like that. It was just really meaningful to live with three 90 plus year old folks.
And there was no proper heating in winter. There was no cooling system in summer. But it was interesting to see the way they lived. And I think Shanghai, especially at that time, was going through such a mix of contrast. There were high rises coming up really quickly, and then they were all these old compounds that were being bulldozed.
It just felt like there was constant stimulation every time I stepped out of my house. There would be people spitting on the streets, chickens being killed on the roadside and then being sold on the roadside. It was just like a makeshift market in front of my house.
And then I would go into this really nice, like five, six star hotel to check out their designs and all that.
On Sundays I needed this whole meditation, yoga session to calm down. But it was exciting. It was so interesting to see how China was doing things very differently from the outside.
Before moving to China, a lot of family friends were like, Oh, be careful.
You're going to be manipulated there. They're cunning.
But when I was there, I learned that it's also a perspective shift and when you know the local culture and the locals, you understand their perspective too. So Shanghai is a city of 25 million people packed into the city and living there in it.
And the first time I tried to catch a bus to go to work, I got pushed out. So I thought oh, dude it's like survival of the fittest here.
So you kind of understand where they're coming from. They're sweet people, but I think they're like situations that pushed people to do things differently too.
Ling Yah: And were people always very entrepreneurial and venturing in new things as well?
Red Hong Yi: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think, I think it's just in the blood, right.
So when I started working full time, I had left and right, local Chinese architects working with me and, okay. This is a little bit personal, but before I left Australia, so this guy who gave me this laser cut ring .
And it had Godzilla invading a whole city. It was really cute . And I showed my colleague on my left hand side.I was like look at this ring, isn't it cute?
And he was like, do you have the CAT files? Let's cut this and sell it.
I was like, Oh my God. I'm horrified. That was his first reaction.
So I think over there, I felt that people were very driven to find business opportunities.
There were all sorts of experiments, all sorts of the things.
Ling Yah: And I think that kind of also influenced you as well. Cause at one point you also thought of doing some kind of e-commerce venture.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. Yeah, this doesn't sound as special right now, but at the time when I moved over, so every day after work, I used to take the subway back home. On these pillars in the subway station , there would be just posters of groceries.
And you could just QR code scan it and it would be sent to your house. So basically they were trying to bring a supermarket into a subway station for people who didn't want to go to the supermarket after work. So I felt that, Oh my God, it's so clever.
It's so smart. I've never seen this happen before. So , I started Googling around Alibaba and things like that and discovered that there was this city called Yiwu. That's totally dedicated to manufacturing samples. So you can find anything like a mug or like a cap or a jar, anything in that city it's just built for supplies and manufacturing.
So a friend and I traveled there and, Oh my gosh, this is crazy. This is so mad. This is where everything is made. And then for some reason, we wanted to sell bicycle parts and he was also a friend that shot my Yao Ming video.
So as we were discussing this bicycle e-commerce thing, I was doing art on the side, just for fun.
And then he offered to shoot a Timelapse video of my Yao Ming thing and put it up online. And then that kind of got spread around. And then that e-commerce thing kind of fell to the sideline.
Ling Yah: Yeah. But that trip proved to be really important because if you didn't have it, you wouldn't have the video.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. Yeah. So thank you, Joel. Joel is a really, really good friend. He actually was the one who named me red. So he kind of jokes around that he gave birth to me.
Ling Yah: That's hilarious because red actually comes from your surname "Hong".
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. Yeah.
Ling Yah: So how did he actually come about though? This nickname Red.
Red Hong Yi: He's a friend from Australia. He's funny. He gives a lot of friends nicknames. So I remember one night when we went out together with a group of friends who introduced us to our group, he was like, Oh, this is so, and so this is so and so, and he pointed at me, this is red.
I thought that was funny. So it stuck from then on.
Ling Yah: And did you end up buying anything from that trip to Yiwu?
Red Hong Yi: I don't think we did. I think we collected a couple of samples . We looked at random things, but to be able to buy there's a minimum order quantity.
So we didn't ended up doing that.
We were totally naive looking at all these things and like, Oh wow. We can sell, we can sell this , this would be people buy this, not knowing about branding, marketing, or that kind of thing behind it.
Ling Yah: So this was 2011, 2012. It's your second year in Shanghai. And you, as you mentioned before, you were kind of doing art on the side and you were doing this portrait of Ai Wei Wei using sunflower seeds and people didn't really notice that until you did the Yao Ming video, which was launched January 2012.
Can you tell us the whole thought process behind doing that video of Yao Ming.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. So the Ai Wei Wei piece was done right outside the house that I was living in with my grand uncles and aunties. And my grand uncle actually shot that from the third floor down. I gave him my DSLR, I was like, it's on auto, just click, click.
Ling Yah: You can't go wrong.
Red Hong Yi: No No.
So yeah, I started out with really basic materials and skills, and then Joel came to visit Shanghai. He just quit his job. And this was December. He was looking for inspiration and I kind of like, try to get him on board on this whole e-commerce thing.
And he shoots wedding videos on the side. So I was like, Oh, I'm doing the second portrait. And it's this Yao Ming portrait. And he was like, Oh, maybe I can take a video of it.
And it was done in TimeLapse and we put it up online .
Ling Yah: How long did it take you to do that thing?
Red Hong Yi: It was really quick. Cause I think there was no expectations behind it and it was just my friends and parents watching it.
Ling Yah: Did you have a trial run before that?
Red Hong Yi: I did. It didn't work when I did it in front of my house. Cause I think the wind was going too hard. And so I did it the second time right behind HASSELL the office and I think it was just more secluded. So it was easier to do that. And it was on a Saturday and no one was there
It was about three hours that video. And then I think the upload was about two or three minutes . And then two weeks later, I found out that gizmodo.com posted it online.
And then from Gizmodo, it went to all other kinds of news channels. Like today, when I think about it, I go, Oh my God, that's crazy. It wouldn't happen today. Even if I did the same video, I think maybe it was a novelty thing to see a time lapse of someone creating with a random tool. But now the whole, Instagram artists circle is quite saturated.
There's a lot of these things now, but back then it was probably like a new thing. So it got spread around quite a bit.
Ling Yah: Even NBA picked it up as well.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. That was pretty crazy. They were discussing things like my dribbling skills and all that kind of thing.
And they're like, why did she have no paint on her clothes and all that,are these like editing skills? So it was interesting to read through all those comments.
Ling Yah: So what was your feeling like seeing all these like comments build up these likes build up? They went into the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. Yeah, it did. Oh, I'm getting recognized for it. But there was also a little bit of anxiety because I was like, Oh, what's next? Is this going to be a one hit wonder thing? What am I cannot produce anything after this?
And then also I felt like, Oh, I'm not a real artist. Why am I labeled as an artist? That artist label was so foreign to me. Yeah. So it was a combo of excitement and anxiety that I felt.
Ling Yah: So you had these questions, these doubts, but then you still continue onto you on second art and then your third and your fourth. How did you overcome those doubts?
Red Hong Yi: I think I just continued doing it.
A friend told me, cause I was telling a friend about it. I was like, Oh, I'm so scared. And he was like, just fake it till you make it. I was like, okay, I guess so. And then I just continued. So it's been a steep learning curve for me.
I mean, I've had to like really bang my head on the wall a lot of times, getting into, you know, mistakes and things like that. But I've met really amazing people throughout my journey who helped me get to the next step as well. So it's been quite an incredible journey.
Ling Yah: So your next few portraits were of Jay Chou, Zhang Zi Mou. Tell us how you came to decide on who to do a portrait on.
Red Hong Yi: At the time, the inspiration really started from me wanting to tell stories about China and about people that who highlight it in the media a lot.
I felt that China was, I mean, it has a lot of its own flaws in terms of how things are managed sometimes .
But at the same time, I felt like it was such a misunderstood country as well. And I felt that a lot of these stories need to be told. I thought it'd be easiest to highlight just personalities there through materials that spoke about their careers or their lives. So I wanted a person from each in a different industry.
So I started with an artist and an athlete to singer Jay Chou and then to a filmmaker. And I want it to continue that kind of thing. And yeah, that was how I chose my characters.
I think it really thrilled me when someone from Norway for example went, Oh, I've never heard of Jay Chou. And I'm like, are you serious? We grew up with him here.
So yeah, that really thrilled me.
Ling Yah: So were you getting more and more viewers coming on board and seeing your work. Was there growing interest and more media coming towards you?
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. Yeah. I had like a small following at the start. Like during the Yao Ming thing.
I set up a Facebook page after that, and then it built up from there and it's been really fun connecting with people all over the world.
Ling Yah: And it led you to the EG conference, which happened the same year in April.
Red Hong Yi: That was so quick.
So the person who reached out to me, his name is Michael Hawley. He is like a dear friend and a mentor almost to me. He's the guy behind EG. And when he emailed me I thought, no way. Is this a scam? Is this a hoax. And I Googled him.
I was like, no kidding. Professor MIT has done a bunch of things. He's brilliant. He's worked with Steve Jobs on NeXT and all that kind of thing. And I thought, no, this is not real.
And we jumped on a call and I thought, Oh my gosh, this is real. He took a leap of faith and invited me to go over to the States to speak about my art in May.
And at the time I just started out. So I thought, okay, I have to Do another portrait of like an American or something like that. So it's more relevant to the crowd there, and I chose Mark Zuckerberg.
And yeah, I think that was when my parents realized that, Oh my gosh this fun side project is actually happening.
It's real. And, I think it freaked them out. So they flew over right before the conference and they're like, are you sure what's going to happen and all that kind of thing.
And then in the end we decided that mom and dad should go over for the conference too. So they came with me and that was when they realized that, Oh, my daughter is not that crazy after all. There is a room filled with crazy, you see?
Ling Yah: Who are also successful.
Red Hong Yi: At doing all sorts of different things!
So what I love about Mike is he puts equal importance and respect in the sciences and the arts. So he had amazing scientist that's discovering incredible things, to musicians, to artists, to astronauts, to chefs, to everything.
And that really just opened up my eyes and it is going well, you know, the world is much bigger. It's not just confined to what you study.
Ling Yah: Because the EG conference is actually quite a big deal. It was something of a turning point for you, wasn't it?
Red Hong Yi: It was, it really was. Meeting all sorts of people and having all that station in with them there expanded my mind a lot.
And after that, my parents were like, okay, you know what you're doing. And I trust you. We trust you, we have to trust this. Cause they met all these people, who trusted what I was doing. So that was really something that changed my life quite a bit. And I have to thank people like Mike, who actually believed in what I was doing.
Ling Yah: And you were still working as an architect at the time and doing art on the side soon after you had a conversation with your boss?
Red Hong Yi: So after EG, I had a couple of commissions requests coming in and two are really big. The bigger one was Hewlett Packard.
And they wanted me to be a part of this 32nd TV commercial that was going to be aired in four different countries, including China and I thought wow. Maybe I should give this a shot. So I did that on the side while I was working with HASSELL, did that during the weekends and had friends coming in to help me put things together.
And then after it was shot, my boss had a chat with me. So I thought, Oh my gosh, this is when he's like, this is not cool. This is not cool that you're like focusing on something else.
But to my surprise, he was super encouraging. He said, so I know you're getting all these requests. Have you thought about going into it full time?
And I thought oh no like, Peter you're going to like fire me right? And he goes, no, no, you shouldn't really think about this. Cause if you were my daughter, I would actually really think that you should give this a go because you never know where it might bring you. And if you're worried about finances and all that, you can come back after six months, like HASSELL still here and he gave me that safety net.
And then I was like, Oh, my gosh. First of all, this boss is amazing. It's rare to have someone like that.
And also he's given me a safety net. I have no excuse to not figure out and give this a shot. And then the first day when I quit I sat in the cafe and I was so lost.
Where my colleagues, where is the project manager, what's going to happen. What is next? So, yeah, so that was day one for me.
Ling Yah: Oh, wow, and I imagine you must have had to break the news to your parents and how was that conversation?
Red Hong Yi: Okay. I think my dad came to the Hewlett Packard shoot with me. He was the person who went through like my contracts and all that.
I had a friend who was managing it, but he was also helping me, Just taking care of the whole thing.
They gave me an offer that was more than my salary that year. And I thought, you know, I was a little bit smug.
I'll be fine. Getting paid so much. And then he was like, have you thought about taxes? Have you thought about now you are your boss you have to pay for all these expenses, whoever you hire is all on you now, your branding, your marketing. All that kind of thing.
I was like, huh. So how much is that? It's like, you better put it all in your company and then use that gradually. Don't go out and feel like you own the world now. And I was like, what do you mean by putting it in my company? I had no idea on company accounts and personal accounts and things like that.
So he really sat with me through all that. And that was when I realized that, oh, whoa, okay. You have to be paid a certain amount to keep this afloat. That was my foray into business .
Ling Yah: Did you even think perhaps this might not work. That after HP, there might not be anything else and you would go back.
Did you give yourself a deadline?
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. I gave myself six months. I did have six months of savings at least to figure this out. I was grateful that I did have a steady stream of projects coming in, but I think at the time, if I had to advise my younger self, then. I had all sorts of different projects coming in and it was kind of confusing to choose what to take and what not to take.
And that would really set what kind of projects I would have next. They were also that sorts of things like, Oh, do you want to make, say a Coca Cola installation out of Coca Cola cans. And then there would be a gallery coming up to me going, Oh, do you want to have an exhibition doing this?
And then there would be. a skincare company going, Oh, do you want to come in and do our packaging. So it's like totally different directions. And at the time I was like, Oh, just take, take, take, take. And I think that really confused my direction for a bit. So I had to take a step back and go, okay, I shouldn't be doing this, this, this, because I think once your focus is diluted, your clients don't really know which direction you're heading towards too. So I had to be a little bit more strategic than that.
Ling Yah: So, how do you come to that decision on what your focus would be and was that when you decided that you wanted to be known this an artist who paints without paintbrush?
Red Hong Yi: I think, I mean, it's, it's taken many years, I guess it's taken me many years. Eventually it came down to, it has to be projects that I've been excited about that.
Like the companies that I choose to work with their values have to align with mine. And occasionally I get companies requesting you to do stuff and I go, Oh, do I come in as the artist or the designer that designs for you?
I have to make it very clear that I'm the artist here who is collaborating with you. I'm not here to make a product for you. So it comes from a very different place.
Ling Yah: And I think that your tendency to use common day everyday objects was quite evident from the start. You did one, which is quite well known for the WEF in Davos in 2014 of the Teh Tarik Man. And that was a really, really massive project. I mean, you had 200 kg worth of tea bags. I can't imagine that you could have done this alone. So how did you even go about conceptualizing this and bringing that team together?
Red Hong Yi: After Shanghai I went back to Australia because I have my permanent residency that I had to fulfill .
So I was in Australia and then I had that commission coming in and I was like, Oh, I really, really wanted to go for it.
So it was like, has to be a piece that I would be proud of and I wanted it to be reflective of something really Malaysian and cultural, but not too cliche, like the twin towers, for example.
So I chose a Teh Tarik man, because I thought it would be a humble scene that I could share with people , and I really wanted people to be able to experience that smell of teh tarik in Davos.
I designed everything with a couple of friends, and then we figured out that we needed 20,000 tea bags to do this. And I had a month to create it. And I thought, no way, I'm not going to be able to do this by myself.
So this is December and a lot of students were on holiday. And I put a call out to get students in to help me tie these things together. So about 20 people came in to help me with it. , and that was how it was done. Looked for a carpenter to get all the frame done and then shipped it to the shipping part was a bit of a roller coaster for us because we had a really short timeline of shipping it out and then flying to Switzerland and then receiving it.
But when I got to Switzerland, it wasn't there yet and I was like, freak out, Oh my gosh, Davos is happening in three days. What do we do? And then we find out that it went to New York for some reason.
And then like, why did it go to New York? And they're like, Oh, we just have to do a detour and they had to really check and make sure each tea that had no substance. And I was like dude, No way there's 20,000 of them to go through.
So it was constant calling, calling, calling, just trying to push them and coming up with official documents from Davos saying that it's going to be slate there and all that.
So eventually it arrived right after constant hassling for three days.
Ling Yah: That was nerve wracking.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. I'm like oh my gosh if it'd missed those three days of Davos. I would die.
Ling Yah: I imagine one of the questions people always want to know is how do you come up with all these creative ideas? It's always something that's different, but it's always in a way related to the person or the thing that you're portraying. So how do you even come up with that and the process behind it?
Red Hong Yi: It comes up either from the person or the subject, or I research on the material. So I think if it starts with the person, I start like a research on this person's background and what they've done with the lives and usually a thing would pop up and I would probably delve into that thing.
So if it was, for example, let's say
Ling Yah: Aung San Su kyi
Red Hong Yi: Oh Aung San Suu Kyi yeah yeah yeah that's a really good one.
So this is before the whole Rohingya thing, right? So growing up, I was very, very inspired by her story and her love for her country.
I started reading up a lot about her and watching the movies and things like that.
The one with Michelle Yeoh in it. And then I noticed that she always had very elegant, beautiful flowers. And then upon more research. I learned that it was a symbol for her dad and how he used to tie fresh flowers in her hair as kids.
So I started researching flowers , that's how it comes about. If It's doing a person's portrait.
But I do have materials on the site, like say chopsticks for example, and I can kind of figure out how they can be arranged differently. So it's usually this or that. And sometimes I kind of draw a line and merge them together.
Ling Yah: I love that you brought up chopsticks because your most famous one is the one that you did with Jackie Chan.
Can you tell us about that? Because it just looks like you really need a team as well. Because you need it. So many chopsticks to tie altogether, hanging up just to do a portrait of Jackie Chan. So can you explain to us what that was like?
Red Hong Yi: Yeah, that was the very first project. We had a team doing that with me.
This was, I think, a year after quitting HASSELL.
So my friend Aggie, who used to work for HASSELL as well, quit HASSELL to join me. I think he was figuring out what to do. And, no, she was probably still with Hassell at that point. And so she-
Ling Yah: Peter's probably regretting it. No, should've never said yes. I'm losing my employees one by one.
Red Hong Yi: No, no, no. Okay. No, no. It started like this right after I quit Aggie joined because she read about me in HASSELL, working for HASSELL. And when she joined HASSELL, she was like, where's this red character. And everyone's like, she quit.
But I had a great relationship with HASSELL.
So I came in every month or so to say hi to colleagues . I still have my table there, it was kind of still empty. So I used to hang out there afterwards sometimes and Aggie would come over and she's like, you're Red and you quit and now I'm here now. I read about you, you know? So that was how our friendship started.
Then I think eventually I had these commissions from Chinese clients and I needed to help with contracts and things like that. And she's very good with words. So she helped me out with a couple of contracts. And then when the Jackie Chan thing came about, I was like, Oh my God, Aggie. Jackie Chan's guys actually contacted me.
So we flew to Beijing together. And then she was my manager, like immediately promoted manager.
And then um - I mean, I needed to keep that image, right? And then um-
I think I was so intimidated when this happened. I was like, Oh my gosh, what is this? And I'm also very flattered. Cause Jackie said that he saw my Jay Chou piece online. And he read about me in my Zhang Yi Mou piece. And that was when he realized it was the same person.
And he was turning 60 that year and I think his team wanted to commission, a piece for him. So that was how it happened.
And after a meeting, we walked around Beijing and saw a lot of people, throwing bamboo chopsticks by the roadside after going for like hotpot and things like that.
And we're like maybe we should look into chopsticks. It's such a disposable thing here. And Jackie was all about, sustainability and all that kinda thing. so we started watching earlier movies and there was this scene in Drunken Master where he chopstick fights with his master.
And that inspired the scene in that video that I posted with him. So that was how it started. And then similar to the teabag piece, I had one month of concept, one month of creating the piece. So Aggie suggested that she and I traveled down to the South of China to a village where she's from.
That's like filled with bamboos around. And there were factories making all these like bamboo chopsticks. So she was like, this is the place to be. Everyone knows how to work with bamboo. You can work with the village that my mom lives in. There's 20, 30 aunties that have nothing to do after they've sent their kids to work.
And if you pay them, I'm sure they would love to tie chopsticks for you. And that was what we did for two weeks straight. It was awesome.
I really wish I had documented the whole thing. I really wish I took videos and all that. It was freezing every day. We had our own fireplace. And then we collected our own firewood and repeat tiny chopsticks. it was pretty amazing. And that was how it was done. And then we shipped it back to Beijing and then presented it to him.
Ling Yah: And I've noticed that a particular theme in your projects is that it's temporary installations in very large, but they are temporary rather than permanent. What happens to them after that? I mean, what do you do with the 20,000 teabags or all these chopsticks?
Red Hong Yi: Chopsticks are more permanent because they are treated bamboo chopsticks, the teabags probably less. So, although we did seal them as well, the food ones for sure are not permanent.
So I do document them through photography, but I think after the Jackie piece When I had commissions come in, I had to think about durability because I realized that, oh, they don't want it just for the photos or videos. They want to actually keep these things for goodness knows how long. So I started to research into more durable materials.
Also still everyday materials. So it was either things like hair, eggshells and things like that. So there was a lot of research done in how artists from hundreds of years ago have used materials that have kept till today.
So I would visit museums and look at see what the Mayans did or what I think the Chin dynasty people used to do with their vases and things like that, and research into those materials around more doable materials.
Ling Yah: And I love to talk about how your architecture training influenced what you were doing. How did that come into play? And how important was it in you being able to do the kind of what you're doing?
Red Hong Yi: Yeah, I think, that's been a learning process for me too, because I came from a very design kind of background. It was problem solving. Give me a site, tell me how big the site is, what your client's requirements are and the boundaries and all that limitations are. That was what my thought process was.
But more and more, I think, as I'm in art a little bit longer, it is also about the emotions that you want to create and share with people. It's a lot about emotions and expressions and it doesn't have to be one plus one equals two, trying to like bridge those two together. And even think less like a designer, but that design part will always be with me.
I think that's why I go, okay. I need like 20,000 of this. I need to model this up, in 3D space and make sure it works. So a lot of my pieces are planned on the computer first, and then I go, yeah, I can make them. And then I'll start buying all these parts and stuff.
Ling Yah: So what's been the most challenging part of executing a project for you?
Red Hong Yi: Oh, I think the most challenging part is the doubts of whether it can happen or not. I always doubt whether my art is impactful enough. If it's meaningful enough. I think over time, I've had to tell myself that, you know, if it's good enough, it's good enough. It doesn't have to be perfect.
And sometimes the more perfect it is, the less interesting it is, the more boring. I think it's that whole getting over perfectionist thing .
Ling Yah: I love that you brought doubt up because you said in a TedX talk in KL that when you decide to go full time, you decide to leave doubt behind. But I can't imagine that was a straightforward or easy process.
How did you handle it?
Red Hong Yi: I had to realize that I was running a small business and I think as with any like, Business owner there's always going to be doubts about what you're doing and if you're driving your ship well, because, Oh my gosh, like where is my boss and where all these people that are supposed to be my pillars, right?
You're your own boss right now. So there were a lot of doubts if I was doing things right, but I've learned to manage the doubts and kind of dance with doubts. It's always going to be there, but I'm comfortable with it now.
Ling Yah: Were you ever tempted to go back?
Red Hong Yi: No, I mean, I think a lot about wanting to design it and build an actual physical building, I still want to do that, but I've not thought about working for a company after I quit. Not because I didn't like it, but because I really enjoy what I'm doing and I enjoy the autonomy behind it.
And I think it fits my personality too.
So I've had a couple of friends at the time. I was all like, Oh, everyone should do this. So I had a couple of friends who decided to give me their passions, a go. Full time too. And then that was when I realized that it doesn't fit everyone's personality and that's all right, too.
There's no shame in realizing that it doesn't suit your lifestyle because working for a firm has it's awesome perks too . You don't have to think about renting a space. You don't have to think about a lot of things. And that that's okay.
Whereas I have to think about all those kinds of other things that come with running my own thing. So it really is about what fits your personality and lifestyle.
Ling Yah: So what was it about your personality that drew you to this and made you realize I couldn't ever go back?
Red Hong Yi: I think I am someone who likes doing things a bit differently. I really like being creative and experimenting and I see my life as a whole series of products that I want to work on.
I do have a little bit more of an appetite now for risks a little bit more. And yeah, I think I just like putting things out there and seeing what happens with either the products or the artworks that I do.
Ling Yah: If you had no limit on resources, is there a particular project you really want to do, but you haven't managed to do yet?
Red Hong Yi: I think there's always projects that I want to work on, but at the same time, I feel like my most creative moments come from limitations and boundaries and a place of scarcity because when desperation comes, I feel like my most creative ideas come about at the same time.
So I think I was able to work on all these projects when I was working for HASSELL, because I had HASSELL in time. And on the site, on the weekends, I just really want it to carve up at times to meet things. It was like a desperate thing for me to do. But I think the first year out of HASSELL at all the time in the world to do whatever I want it to do, that was the year when I was the least productive that first year.
Cause I was like, Oh, it has to be so perfect. I have to max this out. And I think the more expectations I had on myself, the less I created. So I've also learned to set boundaries and to not go too crazy with expectations as well.
Ling Yah: So, how do you think it through, because you can't be perfectionist all the time, but at the same time you can't give subpar work?
So where is that line? How do you draw it?
Red Hong Yi: That's a really good question. I think for me I have to remind myself, it's okay to start small. It's always a work in progress. Start small. It's almost like prototyping a product .
So I think an example was with the recent "I am not a virus" project than I did.
It really started off with me talking to a couple of friends in the States and they were like oh, you know, it's such a bad sense to be an Asian right now. You don't know if you know where you're going to be judged because of your ethnicity. So I think, when I heard that, I thought, Oh, maybe I'll just make a piece that expresses this with whatever I can find in my pantry.
So I dug around and found expired matcha leaves. And then create a portrait of myself with a mask saying, I am not a virus, that's it. But it started from there.
And then I started to get like pretty, fast responses and comments about it. It was more reaction than I thought I'd get.
And I thought, okay, maybe I should turn this into a series and really look into it a little bit more. And then I started reading all these articles about victims of assaults happening, and then I thought, okay, maybe I should document this. Just turn it into a series of 10 so that there is ongoing conversation.
It's not just a one off. And then, , it turned into a series of different people's portraits that I was profiling. After the whole thing, I started to get more and more interviews and requests on this. And then Teen Vogue contacted me to do a series because it was the Asian Pacific Heritage Month in America.
And then Pos Malaysia, I'm doing something with them. They went a series of steps, of front liners with like masks on. So that's going to happen soon. And then a couple of other requests. And then eventually that turned into my bigger weaved bamboo piece.
That was just a series of. seven portraits of people that was featured.
Ling Yah: And you used a blowtorch.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. Yeah. Yes. So I think this, this was a good reminder for me that things can start small. It's okay to start small. But I think with the bigger piece that I did deliver, I wanted it to be good, but not perfect.
So that's an example of starting small and then turning it into something bigger.
Ling Yah: And you started with that whole, I'm not a virus series, and then you continued on to seeds of hope and just went on and on. And before that you actually did this piece with Kenji, which was called burn and it was - some might call it a political piece.
It was all about like an orangutan that is framed by these branches, and you just set it on fire and it's the message that, you know, if you don't do something now you can never get the world back.
So it seems like you are adopting a more purposeful approach to art. And I'm wondering if that is a recent occurrence and why that came about.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah, I think, at the same time, while I was doing all these pieces with interesting materials, I felt that I wanted something deeper than that. It wasn't just the aesthetics that I'm after. It has to be a message. And I go back to emotions like what art can do more than numbers or data can do is it really can impact a person emotionally.
So I thought that's where the power of art comes from. And at the time, when Kenji and I were creating that piece, you know, the Amazon forest was on fire and then the Bornean forests were on fire too. So we thought that was timely. And then we created a piece and this year . I think I just told myself that I wanted to create pieces to spread messages.
Like I want to stand for something. And more and more, I feel this want to share about my heritage and culture and race and gender more. So these things are on my mind a bit more this year. And I wanted to express that.
Ling Yah: And do you think that all artists should eventually have a purpose behind the art rather than just for aesthetics?
Red Hong Yi: No, I think it really is up to the artist. Art is such a personal thing
I spoke to a friend recently about this and she's like, Oh, but I like what you're doing, but I don't want to talk about these things. I just want to make pretty things and that's totally fine. That's totally fine.
I think there's room for all sorts of art.
Ling Yah: And do you not feel fearful? Because these can be quite controversial, even sensitive things, and you will invoke a lot of perhaps negative reactions that you won't normally get with just something that's pretty.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah . I did get a couple of comments that went, Oh, you know, we like your art, but now you're doing this and I disagree with what you're doing and all that kind of, yeah.
So I do that. Get those comments. But at the same time, I feel like you cannot please everyone too, and if you do, then what do you stand for as well? And it just dilutes everything you do. So I think it's important to know what you want to stand for as well. And I'm okay with speaking up about certain topics.
Ling Yah: And there's one of the stuff that we haven't covered yet, but I wanted to raise because it's quite important. And it's the issue of finances. I mean, when you were starting out before you quit, you were doing these large scale things, but you were buying everything about, so how were you funding yourself and how were you finding yourself after you and you didn't have that cushion to fall on?
Red Hong Yi: So all of my pieces, I had to learn that when a client contacts me. I would hold back on the budget a little bit and go, let me get back to you. I make it very sure about what the client wants, this dimension, this timeline, and this concept. And once that set, I have a clearer understanding of how much money is involved in it.
If they want 20,000 tea bags, I'm going to have to figure out a way to get 20,000 tea bags. And that's going to have to be included in my fee proposal. So I did include that now, and it's a lot easier when that happens.
Ling Yah: How'd you even come up with how much to charge your clients though?
Red Hong Yi: That's tricky. It's been a learning process I guess. There's a couple of ways around that. I think it depends on a lot of things. So what kind of client is it? Is it a client that is after a couple of images, like Teen Vogue on a magazine, as opposed to a TV commercial for Hewlett Packard.
That's a totally different budget that they have. So I do understand that there's a range and there's a different kind of need to it. And I guess I have to work on how much time I'm going to spend on it.
If it's one whole month full time. Then I kind of have a gauge on, Oh, this is the amount of hours that I have and multiply that by how much I should be paid per hour. That's a very straightforward way of working on it. And then the expenses and then the labor and all that. So that is the minimum amount that I have to charge.
Ling Yah: And how do people for those who are just starting out, how do they even know how much to charge and what they are worth per hour? For instance,
Red Hong Yi: Think about how much time you're going to spend on that. That's just one way to go about it. How much time are you going to spend on it? And. What materials, what expenses involved.
And then once you have that, I guess that's a starting point for you, but of course, with art, when it comes to commissioning art, you have 1 million, versus a hundred bucks. it's very hard to put a price tag on art, but when you're starting out, you can go the whole route of how much time I'm going to spend on this.
And maybe even think about how often you're going to get projects. You might have to charge a little bit more. If you want to sustain your practice for the next project that might come in.
Ling Yah: And how do you balance between taking on projects, commissions that pay and your own artistic interests?
Red Hong Yi: Yeah. There are some projects that I take up that do not pay as little, but I know that there are other things that come along with it, so it could be. Say values or, a certain campaign that I really believe in like over at nonprofits and things like that. Um, sometimes it is the relationship with that particular client that I believe would be good as a building block.
So yeah, there are certain clients that I've turned down because I don't use those products or I don't align with those kinds of values. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that, but it would just bring me into a different kind of market. So I think it's good to know which direction you want to head towards. And what do you want to build?
Ling Yah: And I think it helps to have friends who are in the field who can kind of share how they are thinking through these things like charging. But I mean, when you first thought that you didn't know anyone in the art field. So how do you begin to begin your network and have these kinds of friends support you on the journey and understand where you're coming from?
Red Hong Yi: Well, I really had no idea. I did not know anyone who was a full time artist at all. So it was really through gradual putting yourself out there. People respond to you like Mike, for example. And then I went to the conference and then knew a bunch of people, including artists.
And those artists introduced me to other artists or those scientists or inventors introduced me to their artists, friends. So it was really just a gradual buildup of connections.
Ling Yah: Before you started as one person show, and now you have a team around you, so how did that happen? When did you decide that this was the time where you need a full time team around you?
Red Hong Yi: They don't work with me full time, but they are there for me quite a lot.
So my model is they are freelancers. They can still work on their own projects because I think that's important for artists, but as there are a lot of artists, we don't have full time work.
So I do tell them, Hey, I have this project coming up. It's going to be two, three months. And would you be able to commit this time for me? So that's how we work in. I paid them on a daily kind of basis. So I go, this is the day rate that I have, and just fill out your timesheet. And then by the end of this project, these are the fees for you.
So that's worked better for me.
Ling Yah: At what point did you decide that it was time for you to get a team?
Red Hong Yi: So I think it was last year that I worked with this team. But before that it was more like me going to a factory and hiring laborers to help me do things but I realized that I needed artists who knew how to make things to work with me.
Two years ago, I worked on this project called Pillars of Sabah. It's a community project and a friend and I, we gathered about 30 artists to come together and to revamp this space in the middle of the city.
And that was when I got to know local artists and it's a combination of full time artists and artists who work for companies nine to five.
So I reached out to those artists that were freelance full time and gave them this offer and it went, you know, I might need a team sometimes. Do you want to work with me and be like, yeah, sure.
So that's how it happened.
Ling Yah: Amazing. And this whole Pillars of Sabah came about because you moved back from Shanghai and now then to Sabah.
Red Hong Yi: I think I felt like I wasn't permanently back here because I felt like Australia was too far for a lot of my clients and a lot of my clients were in Asia.
So I thought, okay. Maybe being back here with family and being more central was easier than flying out eight hours from Australia and then it's Asia. So being in Sabah, it was so much easier to fly to Singapore, KL and Hong Kong and all that. But at the same time I was going back and forth to the U S as well.
So I was flying quite a bit and like in this kind of region. So it didn't feel like I was just in KK.
Ling Yah: So we talked about you working with teams now. And also you having to fly quite a lot, but now we have COVID-19. How has that impacted your work?
Red Hong Yi: I was just thinking to myself. I was likeoOh, when was the last time I flew?
This is the longest time I've been sitting on my butt at once.
Um, it's been good for my practice to be honest, but it has brought a lot of anxiety and questions at the same time. As with all industries.
It's like a massive upheaval of what's to come. So I think when the lockdown happened, I went into this whole, Oh my gosh, I have to work kind of mode.
So that was when I started the virus series and then seeds of hope. And then I worked on a couple of artworks on the site to submit to like the-
Ling Yah: You had the, when this is over, I will as well.
Red Hong Yi: Oh yeah, that too good memory. I need to update that site.
And then I think a couple of artists from the pillars group that contacted me and they were like, how are you going?
What's happening? And all that, like, we're worried. Right? So I still have a couple of ongoing projects and I'm working with them a little bit more.
And there is this monthly group - Von Wong is on it, he invited me to be in this - monthly gathering of creative minds on zoom .
We talk about it too. We're like, you know, what is going to happen if six months down the line, this continues. So it is about being flexible to change. And rethinking how, I guess in this creative industry is going to be. Everything is moving online digitally right now. So I think we have to be open to possibly shifting a lot of work online, even as well.
Ling Yah: Do you think this shift is permanent for those in the art world?
Red Hong Yi: You know, there's all these news articles going, the world's gonna change permanently. This is going to be forever changed, blah, blah, blah. I don't know why. No one knows, I think at this point, but for sure, I think it's placed more importance on digitizing everything just in case things like this happen.
I think this is the best time to have a pandemic cause we have digital tools right now to keep connected. Imagine if this happened, I don't know, 20, 30 years ago. Right?
Ling Yah: Do you have any ideas of what your future will be?
Red Hong Yi: I actually submitted my application to move to the States and try it out for the next, at least a couple of years, So that's still going to happen. It's in progress, but it's of course it's a crazy time there still.
And I think other than art, I'm dabbling in other things too, that I'm excited about. That's gonna I guess squeeze my creative juices in other ways.
I'm not going to reveal too much yet, but yeah, I think I'm open to other avenues of how I'm going to use my creativity as well.
Ling Yah: Thank you so much for your time. I normally end with three quick questions. So the first one is, do you feel that you have found your why?
Red Hong Yi: Yes, I believe very much so that I found my why when it comes to art has always been a dream and I'm very grateful to be able to do this. And I also believe that my whys can change with every decade even. And, I think I'm open to that change too.
Ling Yah: And what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Red Hong Yi: That's a big one. That's really big. I'm gonna disappoint you coz erm one of my assistants asked me this a couple months ago. And I told her, I stole a quote from Charlie Mackey's thing, like, book.
Ling Yah: He's your favourite artist.
Red Hong Yi: Yeah, I love his work. He was like, Oh, uh, Red what legacy do you want to leave behind? One day, I was like, To be kind.
She kind of, what?
I think like she was expecting this whole spiel about what kind of artist I want to like, be and all that.
Ling Yah: And what do you think are the most important qualities for someone who wants to succeed like you in your field?
Red Hong Yi: Oh wow. I think you have to be determined, gritty and optimistic and maybe a little bit naive.
Ling Yah: And where can people go to find you and follow what you're doing?
Red Hong Yi: Oh, you can check out my portfolio. redhongyi.com, R E D H O N G Y I.com and then go to Instagram and Facebook with the same handle. And then you find me.
Ling Yah: And is there anything else you want to share that we haven't covered so far?
Red Hong Yi: Not that I can think of. I'm just really grateful to be able to share my journey.
Ling Yah: And I'm really grateful that you took the time to be here. Thank you so much, Hong Yi.
Red Hong Yi: Thank you as well, Ling Yah.
Ling Yah: So there you have it. Wasn't that fascinating?
You can find the show notes for this episode, including links to Hong Yi's works and where you can reach her at, sothisismywhy.com/episode2
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