HSC Visual Art Resources

A resource site for visual art teachers and secondary students completing their HSC in the Visual Arts


Liyen Chong
Tuesday 2009
White and brown hair from Sue Upritchard and artist’s own black hair
43mm across (approx), set in a white lacquered MDF casing, 1180 x 380 x 380mm

Liyen Chong
Breathe 2009
Artist’s hair on cotton.
32mm x 30mm

Liyen Chong, born 1979 Malaysia, works and lives in New Zealand.

Liyen Chong creates artworks that explore symbols of identity and culture through the use of embroidery with human hair, predominantly the artists’ own. Hair embroidery can be traced back to both ancient Chinese customs and  the Western Victorian era where hair was embroidered into jewelry. Chong uses human hair as thread constructing detailed drawings that are embroided onto cotton using the embroidery techniques taught to her by her grandmother.

Born in Malaysia to Chinese parents, Chong immigrated to New Zealand at the age of 15. Central to Chong’s practice is this sense of displacement and identity, cultural themes and histories, the exploration of Chong’s own identity. The threads of hair become multicultural strands of culture, memory and DNA. Using the artists’ own hair creates a personal attachment not just to the artworks themselves, by literally sewing herself into the artworks, but also to the conceptual meaning, whilst the act of hair embroidery links back to Chong’s Chinese heritage. Each artwork, although tiny in size takes more than 30-40 hours of stitching to complete

I’m interested in who I am in New Zealand. There is a sense of displacement and wanting to deal with my identity.

– Liyen Chong

I started using hair because it is an expression of language: the way you wear your hair says something about you; it’s filled with your DNA. 

– Liyen Chong

I wanted to explore the idea of the preciousness of an object by spending so much time making something so small. People are startled by the intricacy of the work. They are intrigued by the fact that they are embroidery. They look like a drawing or etching until you get close.

– Liyen Chong

Liyen Chong
The Spector 2009
Blonde, black, red & white hair embroidered on cotton
63mm x 33mm

Liyen Chong
The Anglophile looks deep within herself 2007
Artist’s hair on cotton
53mm x 75mm



  • born in Malaysia to Chinese parents before moving to New Zealand at the age of 15.
  • interested in themes of identity and culture
  • also works in photography and ceramics


  • embroidery with human hair
  • generally artists own, however have used friends hair with different colours
  • embroiders onto cotton
  • small and delicate
  • some exhibited built into viewing platforms on the top of plinths.


  • accesses artwork through museums and art galleries, both public and private
  • responds to the personal and cultural nature of the artworks
  • made up of different cultural mixtures and beliefs


  • exhibited in New Zealand and Australia
  • explores cultural heritage and identity, notions of displacement and immigration

Liyen Chong
Friday 2009
Artist’s own black hair.
43mm across (approx), set in a white lacquered MDF casing, 1180 x 380 x 380mm

Liyen Chong
A Bowl to Catch the Sun 2008
Red and black hair on cotton. Tribute to Janet Frame
32mm x 23mm



  • emotional response to immigration and identity
  • fascination over the use of hair
  • up close, intimate viewing required


  • human hair on cotton
  • embroidery skills passed on by grandmother
  • references Chinese and Victorian hair stitching and embroidery
  • signs and symbols reference cultural and personal identity
  • natural, organic colours and soft tones
  • small stitching placed in the center of the material


  • themes of history, immigration and multicultural identity
  • references past traditions and skills
  • personal identity as a multicultural being
  • explores cultural traditions and themes, the placement of these next to other cultures


  • new interpretation of hair embroidery
  • irony and parody used in artwork titles
  • borrows from past traditions associated with Chinese and Victorian hair embroidery
  • explores cultural identity as multiple

Liyen Chong
A Single Mortal Coil 2009
Artist’s hair on cotton
39mm x 30mm

Liyen Chong
The Fool 2007
Artist’s hair on cotton
35mm x 91mm


  • using embroidery techniques
  • sketching out patterns through drawing skills
  • interest in cultural identity and the merging of cultures through immigration
  • use of traditional and historical symbols relating back to different cultural meanings

Liyen Chong
To prick or unpick the brain that is the question 2007
Artist’s hair on cotton.
30mm x 60mm

Liyen Chong
Ouroboros 2008
Black and blonde hair on cotton
40mm x 57mm









Liyen Chong
The Cockroach 2008
Brown, blonde, white and black hair on cotton.
38mm x 45mm

Liyen Chong
Counterfeit pleasures from a Malaysian childhood (RM $1) 2006
Artist’s hair on cotton
111mm x 55mm


This entry was posted on 04/07/2012 by in All, Drawing, New Zealand, Textiles.