Updated: Jul 4, 2022
Red Hong Yi
has “painted” just about everything with just about anything. She’s crafted a portrait of Jackie Chan with chopsticks, she’s recreated the earth with matchsticks – and then set it on fire. She’s worked with sunflower seeds, coffee, socks, you name it. Now, in an increasingly digital world, she is breaking and owning the boundaries of her art once more by delving into the world of NFTs, proving that she is the original “artist who paints without a paintbrush” and how breaking convention is her true medium. In the age of crypto, blockchain and NFT
Red Hong Yi’s first introduction to the world of crypto and non-fungible tokens (NFT) was on a date with her now fiancé Joe Lee. She had met up with a banker turned trader who was talking about this new big puzzling thing called Bitcoin and cryptocurrency.
“I was super fascinated and I learned more,” Hong Yi divulges. “I wanted to buy Bitcoin but it was so expensive! That was when he told me that I was in the best position to just sell NFTs in exchange for crypto. That’s when he told me about how and why NFTs were the gamechanger in a lot of ways.”
After a lot of research and many months of reading up on it, she convinced her team to create their first NFT. The question then was, what?
“We thought of memes because memes are very shareable,” she divulges. “We also thought about inflation and how central banks are printing money non-stop.”
Such was how her Memebank series of NFT was birthed, based around six copperplates for banknotes parodying six real-world currencies – the US Dollar, British Pound, Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen, Singapore Dollar and Malaysian Ringgit. Instead of the exact print of the currencies, the team replaced certain elements of it with pop culture faces, memes and crypto references.
The first one sold – the one of Doge on the US Dollar note – for 36.3 ETH in July, equivalent to approximately RM325,000 at the time, providing to capital to push forth with the five other plates. The buyer owns the rights to the NFT of the copper plate, as well as the physical plate itself, owning the artwork in both its physical and digital existence.
“I’ve never been brave enough to go all out “No, I want to create my own thing and the collectors can collect it.” It wasn’t until NFT came along that I was able to break that,”Hong Yi tells. “NFTs have given me the liberty to make my own thing. That’s what every artist wants.”
Hong Yi is quick to acknowledge that not every NFT is a jackpot.
“A lot of people have this expectation that once you put it up as a NFT, you’re going to sell. That’s not really the case. It’s very similar to physical art where a small percentage of it sells very well – it still comes down to demand for the artist and the corresponding artwork. A lot of it depends on the artist marketing, strategising and building a community and following around it,” she explains.
Written by Karmun Ng Art direction: Anson Siau
Styling: Sarah Saw
Video: Felix Khu
Hair and makeup: Darren & Eddy Lo