Malaysian artist's fiery artwork used for 'Time' magazine cover on climate change

Malaysian contemporary artist Red Hong Yi has created a stunning installation work that has made the cover of the latest issue of Time magazine (April 26).

For this artful commission, Red Hong Yi (known as Red) practically turned in a fiery conversation surrounding global climate change. The artwork features a 2.3m x 3m world map brought into topographic focus by 50,000 green-tipped matchsticks.

For this elaborate Time magazine cover, Red’s latest piece - aided by a six-person team - served as both installation and performance art. The photo shoot session included the artwork being torched. The cover image was photographed by Annice Lyn, co-founder of Women Photographers Malaysia.

“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, ” says Red in an Instagram post.

The dimensions and positions for the matchsticks were first designed on a computer. Red then laser cut the holes onto a board and began the task of inserting each matchstick by hand. The green matchsticks served as a metaphor for trees.

Layers of fire retardant paint were also sprayed both on the front and back of the "world map" board to control the flames, while a fire truck was on-site.

“The motivation behind it came from the urgency of having to tackle (climate change) together, ” adds Red in a recent Time interview. “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.”

“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, ” she adds.

Last year, Red tackled racism with portraits made from food items while in lockdown in Kota Kinabalu. She spoke up against a spate of anti-Asian sentiment and racist attacks stemming from ignorance about coronavirus with a series titled I Am Not A Virus.

The Sabah-born artist began her career as an architect and received her Master of Architecture degree from the University of Melbourne.

Through the years, her work has been shown at H Queens in Hong Kong, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, World Economic Forum in Davos, Anchorage Museum in Alaska and JP Morgan Chase Bank.

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