Anyone who has passed by the Pasar Seni light rail transit (LRT) station in Kuala Lumpur would not miss the vibrantly painted graffiti along the Klang River. Just less than a decade ago, graffiti was deemed as vandalism by the authorities, but perception towards urban art has since changed. For example, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall collaborated with street artists in organizing the KUL sign festival in 2010. What were once grey and dull walls were transformed into canvases for street artists to show their creativity – drawings of the city’s sceneries, prominent figures and political messages now decorated the Klang River and have given the whole stretch a refreshing facelift.
Situated approximately a 5-hour drive away from the capital Kuala Lumpur is the state of Penang, popular among tourists for its delectable cuisine and wide range of tourist attractions from beaches to UNESCO heritage sites. In the recent years, mural art has become an increasingly big deal in the island due to many joint efforts between the government and art lovers. It all started when Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned by the Penang government in 2012 to draw murals for the Georgetown Festival. His paintings are a hit with the locals and foreigners, with many flocking to take pictures with his artworks even up till today, with the most popular ones being ‘Little Children on a Bicycle’ and ‘Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur’.
Since then, more and more street art murals have popped up around different places in Penang, drawing crowds of visitors who happily snap away these artworks that blend in beautifully with the dilapidated walls and buildings of culturally-rich Penang. Other artists have also contributed to the street art scene which have helped contributed to the tourism of Penang. These murals are so synonymous with Penang that there are even detailed compilations on the Internet that guides you step-by-step on how to get to these murals and even highlighted routes and suggested trails for visiting these artworks in a day. Otherwise, tourists can simply wander around Penang at their own pace and slowly discover these hidden gems.
The perception towards graffiti art has changed greatly in Malaysia in recent years, and have provided more opportunities to rising artists to showcase their talent. Hopefully continuous effort would be put into supporting the urban art scene in Malaysia to propel Malaysia into the Asian hub for arts.
By LIEW Jeen Vern, ASEAN Correspondent from Malaysia