Malaysian gains overnight stardom with her unique artwork

Kota Kinabalu (The Star/ANN) - A Malaysian has become the latest Internet sensation with her unconventional painting of China’s basketball great Yao Ming.

Using just a basketball as her brush and red paint, 26-year-old Sabah-born Hong Yi took two hours to complete the canvas painting and uploaded the two-and-half-minute time-lapse video on Jan 10.

It has gone viral with over 300,000 hits in three weeks, and numerous networks have requested permission to upload the video on their sites.

Overnight, she found herself being sought for interviews by a stream of international media from ABC’s Good Morning America to requests to upload her video on Yahoo, NBC, Huffington Post and the well-known tech site Gizmodo.

"All I did was to share my YouTube link on my Facebook page ( and the rest happened from there.

“I am overwhelmed and extremely nervous,” said Hong, who goes by the nickname Red Hong.

Hong, who is an architect working for an Australian company in Shanghai, returned to Kota Kinabalu to celebrate Chinese New Year with her family.

She is the only daughter of local developer Wedge Hong and Terry Ng Kin Wan. She studied architecture at Melbourne University before joining an Australian company in 2010 and was recently sent to Shanghai.

Hong told The Star that she had always been inclined to painting and she was introduced to abstract art by a teacher at the Seri Insan Secondary School here.

"It was a sudden inspiration and I decided to do a Yao Ming portrait using a basketball.

“I never expected it to be a hit,” said Hong.

“Before I left to study architecture, I told my parents that my interest was to be an artist, but they told me get my degree first and keep art a hobby,” said Hong, who had earlier painted a portrait of famous Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei using 100,000 sunflower seeds.

“My resolution for 2012 is to pursue my art career. I have two projects I aim to do portraits of famous Chinese people and later when I return to Malaysia I will do portraits of famous Malaysians,” said Hong, who admitted that the sudden international focus had put pressure on her for future works.

“I am worried I will not be able to handle it. But my father told me not to worry about it and just go ahead and do what I like,” she said.

Hong is no stranger to the local art circle as a seven-year-old, she emerged second from a field of 300 in an art competition, and has since been recognised in various art events she participated in Malaysia and Australia.

She has another art piece that will be released within the week.

"But I am keeping it a secret for now.

“Let’s see how people respond to it,” she said.

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