PEOPLE have been painting and writing on walls throughout history. Today, street art (visual art in public spaces) continues to evolve in new and exciting areas. In recent years, street art in Malaysia has picked up quite a bit, and you’ll now find murals and paintings by both local and international artists.
Street artists use “smart vandalism” as a way to raise awareness of social and political issues. Some street artists have become famous and their work could be featured in galleries or celebrated on walls around the world — in some cities, there are street art festivals.
Ernest Zacharevic is one such example. Born in 1986 in Lithuania, he is a multidisciplinary contemporary and public artist based in Penang, Malaysia. Ernest is active in both studio and outdoor projects.
In 2012, Ernest received his first constructive public art project from Georgetown Festival 2012 which comprised six street art murals for over 3 months.
He used a clever combination of real-life objects and painted images that allowed admirers to interact with the artwork. The paintings became so popular that the BBC even called Ernest the “Banksy of Malaysia”, while two pieces from the series have been featured the world over, namely Children on Bicycle and Boy on Motorcycle.
Outside Penang, Ernest has done work on the local rainforest and orangutan population in Kuching, Sarawak. Its also known to tourists, who often take selfies in which they “wheel” the orangutans of the mural. In 2014, an Old Town White coffee chain in Ipoh also hired Zacharevic to promote its coffee through a special artwork.
But Ernest sometimes face censorship in his work, as in when he did an infamous mural in Johor Bahru using characters from Lego. The mural, depicting a woman carrying a bag oblivious to the masked villain around the corner, was wiped off by authorities even though it was edited to include a policeman about to intervene. It is known that the mural was targeted at the state’s reputation for criminal activity.
Have a look at some of Ernest Zacharevic’s work in Malaysia and around the world below, but for more information make sure to check out his website.
Written by Bukhori Tajudin.