Jackie Chan

64,000 chopsticks, one portrait of Jackie Chan

Malaysian artist Red Hong Yi pays tribute to the famed actor and martial artist with an unorthodox art installation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 11:32am

Jackie Chan may have used chopsticks in the fighting scenes of his films The Fearless Hyena and The Karate Kid, but never before has the actor been the subject of chopstick art.

Malaysian artist and architect Hong Yi, who prefers the nickname “Red”, has given the martial artist the ultimate present for his 60th birthday – a massive portrait composed entirely of 64,000 disposable bamboo chopsticks.

“This art installation is a tribute to the life, art and cultural significance of Jackie Chan,” says Yi, who spent a month collecting the chopsticks in Zhejiang and Beijing.

“Jackie’s art director contacted me about three months ago to commission me to work on a...piece for Jackie Chan’s 60th birthday. I [decided to] use disposable…chopsticks to show that discarded materials can be reused and made into something meaningful and beautiful.”

Yi tied the chopsticks together into bundles and then hung them on a steel frame. From the installation’s side, only clusters of chopsticks can be seen, but when viewers look at the portrait from its front, Chan’s face becomes visible.

The chopstick installation was presented to Chan on the eve of the actor’s April 7 birthday celebration, an event that drew a wide assortment of celebrities including Taiwanese singer Jay Chou and Korean actress Kim Hee-sun.

A YouTube video showcasing the creation of the installation went viral last week, racking up over one million views.

Watch: Jackie Chan chopsticks portrait by Red Hong Yi 

To Yi, who commonly refers to herself as an artist who “loves to paint, but not with a paintbrush,” the chopstick tribute is only the latest in a long series of artistic works made from unorthodox materials.

In the past, Yi has used food, flowers and even socks to create her work, and one of her previous pieces, a portrait of Jay Chou made completely from coffee stains, was one of the first works that caught Chan’s eye and piqued the actor’s interest. 

“I have always loved art for as [long] as I can remember, and I just like…experimenting with materials, objects and textures,” Yi says. “Perhaps it’s because of my architecture background. I always have to experiment when I use a new material to make sure it works. [There’s] a lot of planning and designing on paper and the computer.”

Born and raised in Malaysia to parents that had left Shanghai during the start of the Cultural Revolution, Red attended university in Australia and then moved back to China for architecture work.

The artist now divides her time between Shanghai and Malaysia, and cites Shanghai’s “messy, crazy [and] chaotic contrasts” as a major inspiration for her work.

As for Jackie Chan, how did the Hong Kong superstar take to his chopstick rendition?

“Jackie is incredibly supportive of what I do,” Yi says. “He’s warm and funny, kind of like a grown-up kid I guess.”