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Makeup as muse: Red (Hong Yi)

I'm kicking off yet another series at the Makeup Museum that I'm calling Makeup as Muse, in which I feature an artist that uses beauty products as inspiration for their work.  For the first installment I want to highlight the work of Malaysian artist Hong Yi, a.k.a. Red, which I stumbled upon last week at My Modern Met and was blown away by these beautiful pictures celebrating Chinese culture/new year.  Red's oeuvre largely consists of using non-traditional means to create images, and for her latest series she decided to use makeup.  She explains, "Chinese art requires a lot of precision and skill — one stroke can make a huge difference, and many times, less is more.  I felt that this is similar to how a woman carefully puts on her make-up."












(images from Red's Instagram)

Red has worked with many non-traditional materials over the years.  She created a portrait of  Chinese artist Ai Weiwei made of sunflower seeds in homage to his installation of 100,000 porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate.


She has also done portraits using overlapping coffee cup stains, such as this portrait of Malaysian business leader Francis Yeoh.

(images from

Particularly interesting to me was the 31-day project in which she made detailed images using food.


She must have worked quite fast on this reproduction of a Marchesa gown - I'm guessing the cabbage leaves would have wilted quickly.


My second favorite series (behind the makeup one, of course) was a collection of colorful birds rendered in flower petals and twigs.


(images from

According to her biography, Red seeks to "use mundane, ordinary and often overlooked objects to make beautiful art."  While this may not be a new concept, Red's execution is what makes her work unique.  People have painted pictures using non-traditional materials before, but it's Red's creativity that sets her apart.  Take, for example, the use of mascara wands to make the cattails growing on the sides of a pond:


Never have I looked at a mascara wand and imagined it resembles this!  Her ability to see beyond an everyday object's given purpose or design is remarkable.  She says, "I am inspired by patterns in nature, and by everyday objects and materials that we are all familiar with. I want to challenge myself to not take these objects for granted, but to see potential in creating art using these objects."  The intricacy of her work is also extraordinary, as it must take a fair amount of time and skill to transform these unusual materials into a detailed image.  You can see in all of the works above how painstaking the process is for arranging one of her chosen mediums - be it flower petals or loose face powder - to compose a coherent picture.  I could probably sit for days with a million flower petals and be stumped as to how to produce a bird from them.  I'm curious to know whether she sketches everything out first or just gets to work.

What do you think?  Are you as impressed as I am?  I wonder how much one of those makeup creations would go for...

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