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This Art Is Made From Food, But It’s More Than Just Playing

Artist Hong Yi spent a month creating a food-based composition every day. The work often managed to address ideas beyond what you might think possible when you’re using condiments as your medium.

Here’s an exercise in creativity: Try to make a piece of art, every single day, for a month. With your food.

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This is the task Malaysian artist Hong Yi set herself at the beginning of March. It was a way of forcing herself to go small and simple, after making a portrait of Aung Sun Suu Kyi that took a month of work, a crew of 20 and 2,000 carnations. Hong says the exercise in simplicity worked. “I learned I don’t and shouldn’t have to wait for the right idea or perfect work; for me, a sort of artistic momentum built up day by day and the more I pushed myself, the easier it got,” she told us over email. “So what I learned from that is not to ‘overthink’–Just do it. Like Nike says.”


Many of them are purely playful, like a three day triptych that reimagines the story of the three little pigs. As she wrote in her third caption: “This is how the third pig REALLY got away. He’s a big Pixar fan as you can tell.”

But other pieces are more political, like her March 4 work: a map made out of soy sauce, with Malaysia’s Sabah province in bright red ketchup. The Royal Army of Sulu–an armed Filipino group answering to Sultan Jamalulu Kiram III–invaded Sabah over an ancestral land claim, and by the time she put condiments to plate, 26 people had been killed in their three-week stand-off with Malaysian forces. “’Pray For Sabah’ was my way to express my pain over the loss of lives and unrest in Sabah, my home state, recently,” Hong said.


She also took on climate change with a melting dilly bar. “Art can be more than just aesthetic,” she said. “Think Ai Weiwei, Banksy and JR.”

Another expressed joy at the dissolution of parliament—a first step towards a new election. She decided to make that one out of Tang. “The color yellow just happened because I wanted something that effervesces,” she said, “and Tang would stand out on a white plate rather than say Eno, a popular antacid that is white.”


There were many more ideas that never made it all the way from sketchbook to plate. “Taylor Swift made with instant noodles was a disaster–she looked like a man,” Hong said. “Frida Kahlo was done like a salad and looked like a salad. And a man too.”

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If you’re in California, you can find Hong at the EG Conference in Monterey on April 19, where she’ll be presenting “A visual feast.”

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a print, radio and video journalist, regularly reporting for WNYC and NPR. He grew up in New Mexico.

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