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Using Time-lapse to Capture Video Art: Interview with Artist-Architect Hong Yi (Red)

by Alane Jewel on December 29, 2012

RealPlayer is committed to helping people discover world-class video content. The recent social video boom has allowed many unknown individuals to skyrocket and become household names through YouTube and other online video sites. To save you from endless hours of searching for videos, we focus on finding new names in online video and highlight the best of social video sharing.

With that in mind, we are pleased to feature artist-architect Hong Yi as someone to keep an eye on in the video world. Known as the artist, who paints with anything but a paintbrush, Hong Yi uses time-lapse video techniques to capture her fine art projects and has created nine art videos in 2012 on her YouTube channel that has more than six thousand subscribers and two million video views. Born and raised in Malaysia, Hong Yi is an artist-architect who goes by the nickname, ‘Red,’ since ‘Hong’ sounds like the color red in Chinese. She attended university in Australia, and upon completion moved to Shanghai for work.


We recently caught up with Hong Yi to learn more about her art and video process. She told us “I like to use everyday materials and objects that we’re familiar with – like books, coffee cups, fabric – and turn them into art. I also like to use materials that have a connection with the person or subject that I am painting.”

When did you become interested in art?

Red: I’ve always loved art since I was a kid. The earliest memory was doodling Sesame Street characters on my kindergarten textbooks. I think it was Snuffy (the Snuffleupagus) that I drew.

After graduating from high school, I chose to study architecture and did not have much time to dabble in my art projects because of my heavy workload. I graduated two years ago and moved to Shanghai for work – and that was when I was inspired to create art again. I was blown away by the Chinese people and culture, so as an outlet, I gave myself a project to paint portraits of iconic Chinese people. I didn’t have my painting equipment with me, so I chose to use local materials that I could find here to do these paintings.

How do you choose the mediums you work with?

Red: I like to use materials that have a connection with the person or subject that I am ‘painting.’ I usually start by doing a lot of research on a person I want to paint, or I work the other way round…I get inspired by an object, and think about who I can associate the object with.

What has been your favorite art video you’ve created to date?

Red: Perhaps the Adele portrait – I really doubted whether I could do it, and in the end I was surprised by how the wax flowed toward the middle of the portrait, giving it a really nice effect! It smells nice (they are blueberry-scented candles), and I like that I was inspired by the lyrics in her song, ‘Set Fire to the Rain,’ blue candles representing rain, which symbolizes tears.

What are the challenges you’ve overcome in capturing your projects with video?

Red: I have attempted to create a one-person studio – shooting, editing and producing everything myself, which is really difficult. I found I really needed someone to help me shoot close-ups of my work. Also, because many of my pieces are pretty big, I have to set my camera on a really high place to capture everything – which can be a problem sometimes.

What are some notable sources of inspiration for your projects?

Red: 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.

What is the longest amount of time a project has taken to create and film?

Red: I recently collaborated with my architecture firm, HASSELL, and produced a Christmas video based on the song ‘Winter Wonderland.’ HASSELL has 14 studios across the world, and we shot it in all 14 cities, directed by people from different studios. That took about a month to complete; I was a little worried at first because some of my colleagues have never shot videos before and there was a lot of coordination work involved, but I think the video turned out really well and was a success.

Can you tell us a little about your video team? 

Red: It really varies and depends on which ones of my friends volunteer, or who I approach! I can set my camera on a tripod for the time-lapse part of my video that shows the process of my work, but for the close-ups and footages of myself, I usually get a friend to help.

I’ve had some people email me telling me they like my work and are willing to help me shoot, that’s how I met the director/videographer who beautifully shot the video of my Zhang Yimou portrait.

How long have you used video to capture your art and how did you get the idea to use video to capture your process?

Red: I just started in January 2012 when I did my Yao Ming portrait (see video below). That was the second portrait I did using unusual objects. The first one was of Ai Weiwei using sunflower seeds, and I only took photos of it. I shared it on my media platforms and though it was featured on some design websites, the effect was much more evident for viewers when I started shooting my art projects.

What are some of the benefits of using videos to share your work internationally?

Red: I think sharing my work through video has been very effective and it really draws viewers to it, because it shows the whole process of my project (as opposed to the traditional way of hanging art in galleries, where you only see the end piece). Also, video helps you connect more with your audience; they know more about my personality, and it creates this connection between the artist and viewer. 

How can people learn more about your art?

Red: You can visit my youtube channel, visit my website, or visit my blog at

What’s your favorite Red video? Let us know in the comments below.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Vape Forest March 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Red is an incredible artist. What an interesting young woman. Really cool the way the process of creating the art has been condensed into a short clip with time lapse technology. Also, it’s comical seeing the old lady near the end of the first video holding the iPad; how technology has seeped into every facet of our lives is just ridiculous. The times, they are changing.

P.S. loving your blog, never noticed you had one until I stumbled across it searching for something in Google.

2 Real Team March 19, 2013 at 9:19 am

Red is an amazing artist and one to watch, she is doing great things in the international video art realm. Great feedback, Vape Forest! Thanks again for the thoughtful share.

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