Street Art making A Scene
Art for the people has changed Penang in a big way. Interactive art on peeling, crumbling facades have made the city more alive. Old walls are canvases for a 25 year-old artist, animator, photographer, and filmmaker. Lithuanian Ernest Zacharevic from Middlesex University of London came to Penang for a short visit ended up staying and painting for more than a year. Working in collaboration with the small art community of Penang he has turned city walls of Georgetown into canvases, blending art with organic landscapes. The brilliant ideas that give rise to these murals bring tradition and culture to the present with humour.
Titles “Kopi O, Tok Tok Mee, Trishaw” evoke nostalgic memories.
Kopi O = black sweet coffee with thick coffee sediment at the bottom
Tok Tok Mee = welcome sound of striking bamboo clappers of the noodle cart arriving round the corner
Trishaw = favourite means of transport for short distances.
A Jimmy Choo mural shows the famous shoe-man from Penang. He learnt his trade from his father. Penangites view these aptly titled murals, whimsically portrayed on walls, with great pride. Joyful visitors crowd before them with families and friends posing for photographs.
This amazing painting on the sidewall of an old home reminded me of my own youth. Of wild times when I did the much-forbidden-thing of tearing around the side lanes of our village on my bicycle carrying friends’ young sisters and brothers. The faster I went, the sharper I turned the corners, the louder the little pillion passengers screamed and laughed. Here the children have been painted on the wall and old bicycle placed below them. With no worries of vandalism or theft this ‘sculpture art’ affords much fun. Ernest does the same with a motorcyclist. Painted on an old unused entrance is a rider with an old helmet and placed below him is an old real motorcycle, not too rusty.
In this painting a boy is reaching up to get a real coke bottle from an air-vent and below him a real chair. Next to the chair conveniently situated a wooden ladder to walk up to the wooden bench that entices exuberant interaction. Children and adults jump on the bench and reach up to the next air-vent on the wall. Family, friends, strangers step back to take photographs.
Inaccessible, high walls too have their share of paintings. The most prominent one on Penang Road. Working from a high crane, and scaffolding Ernest painted a resting trishaw man right above where my business, a fashion outlet, ‘The Peacock Boutique’ used to be.
These witty and fascinating murals portray Penang culture. Evocative, humorous and clever messages abound too. One about using fewer plastic bags and another says ‘drive less’. Cars have begun to choke the streets of Penang and frustrated drivers trying to get parking spaces in the city are common sights. A new awareness for all to be more organic is taking place.
Other black and white graffiti have sprung up too.
The graffiti I love Penang is no understatement
George Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site, with an inner city population of less than 750,000 throbs with laid-back energy.