Our local contemporary artist Red Hong Yi has made her mark on the world (quite literally) with mesmerizing art that now doubles as the latest issue of Time Magazine!
Red Hong Yi (better known as Red) turned up the conversation regarding climate change with this piece! Red, who is known as “the artist who paints without a paintbrush”, creates mixed-media installations through the reinterpretation of everyday materials. The specific piece that has made it to the cover of Time Magazine showcases a 2.3m x 3m world map brought into topographical focus with 50,000 green matchsticks. To set up the piece – with serves as both an installation and performance art – Red was assisted by six others.
The ‘performance’ bit of the art, aka the ‘main event’, showed the continents being set on fire. On hand to capture the moment was Annice Lyn, co-founder of Women Photographers Malaysia.
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Taking to her Instagram account to share the amazing news, Red elaborates:
“Incredibly honoured to have created the artwork for @time’s special issue this month on climate change. ❤ My team and I spent two weeks sticking matchsticks non-stop for eight hours a day, and then we watched the piece burn down in two minutes,”
But, the effort was worth it to poetically highlight a really, really important message:
“As the Covid pandemic continues to assail the world, we are reminded more than ever that no country is unaffected by global crises, whether it is a pandemic or economic collapse or, as this special issue highlights, global warming and climate change.”
In her Time interview, Red explains,
“The motivation behind it came from the urgency of having to tackle climate change together. The idea came from wanting to highlight a world map, where everyone’s involved, and if one place is affected, the whole place is affected.”
The mechanics of the project were initially drafted and designed on computers before Red and her team proceeded to use lasers to cut holes in the board, as markers for their matchstick placements. Of course, the labour of placing the matchsticks onto the board was done manually. The green matchsticks used served as a metaphor for trees.
Safety first though! Red and her team made sure to spray layers of fire retardant paint on both sides of the board to ensure that the fire was controlled and would not escape the board. As an added measure of precaution, a fire truck was also on-site for when the matches were lit.
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This isn’t the first piece Red crafted that sent a strong message. Last year, she tackled racism with portraits made from food during her time under lockdown in Kota Kinabalu. She also tackled racial attacks towards Asians due to coronavirus ignorance with her “I Am Not A Virus” series. The Sabahan Artist with a Master’s in Architecture from the University of Melbourne has had her work shown in all sorts of prominent art displays including JP Morgan Chase Bank and Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
She truly is a Malaysian icon in art!