KOTA KINABALU - How often can one catch the attention of an international star? One Sabahan did and she even got the chance to "act" with him.
The superstar was Hong Kong action maestro Jackie Chan and the privileged lass was Kota Kinabalu-born Hong Yi, the artist-architect known for her iconic portraits of, among others, Yao Ming, Zhang Yimou, Adele and Aung San Suu Kyi.
It was Hong's extraordinary work - featuring ordinary items like basketballs, flowers, bamboo sticks, socks and candles - that prompted Chan to get her to help him mark an important milestone in his life.
"Jackie's art director contacted me about two months ago to ask me to do a piece for his 60th birthday," recalled the 28-year-old, who is now in Shanghai.
A few weeks later, they met in Beijing. Chan told Hong that he was impressed with her artwork on Zhang, the famed Chinese film director-producer, which used socks hung on a bamboo pole.
"But he said it was my Jay Chou video featuring coffee cup rings that piqued his interest and moved him to contact me," Hong said.
"I spent a long time thinking about what material to use to present an exceptional martial arts star and one of the world's most well-known faces," she said.
Hong decided to use chopsticks - a symbol of Chinese culture - to represent the man.
Also, Chan is known to have used the utensils in his fight scenes in movies such as The Fearless Hyena and The Karate Kid.
"As Jackie is also an environmentalist, I chose disposable bamboo chopsticks to show that discarded materials can be reused and made into something meaningful and beautiful," she added.
A total of 64,000 chopsticks were collected in a month in China for the project.
Bound in varied bunches, the chopsticks were hung perfectly onto a steel frame to project Chan's portrait.
"This was a hanging piece that had to be suspended with steel cables, so I had to make sure it was structurally stable for those chopsticks," she explained.
On the left of the portrait, Hong hung 60 cross-sections of bamboo filled with skewers and chopsticks that formed the Chinese word "long (dragon)", which reflected Chan's Chinese name, Chen Long.
Hong presented her completed work at Chan's concert in Beijing on April 6, on the eve of his 60th birthday. It was a star-studded turnout that included Jay Chou, Lee Hom, Coco Lee, Kim Hee-sun, EXO and Lang Lang.
"I was incredibly honoured to present my art video to the 10,000 people at the concert and talk about the piece," recalled the artist nicknamed Red who famously said she "loves to paint, but not with a paintbrush".
Hong even appeared with Chan in the video, where the duo did a duel with chopsticks.
She said the moment felt surreal, seeing how it all started from the one video she uploaded two years ago on YouTube - of Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming's portrait painted with a basketball.