I have never been to Penang. Now, I have an interest to visit George Town. My interest began with this picture. I noticed it from a local newspaper. A painting of two children riding a bicycle. But the bicycle is real. Such a concept makes this street art interactive. And these two children show a spirit that is spontaneous and carefree. They recall an innocent time when riding a bicycle was simply joyous. This street art is on a wall of a shophouse on Armenian Street in George Town. By London-trained Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic.
Ernest Zacharevic, 25, first visited Penang in 2009. Intrigued by Malaysia, he became a resident last year and began depicting its people and culture, mainly on canvas and paper. He first painted a six-meter-tall graffiti image of an old man’s face on the wall outside a street corner shop. It had residents of George Town buzzing and asking for more. This excitement culminated in this year’s George Town Festival, from June 15 to July 15, where Ernest painted several incredible murals, turning the town into an open-air art gallery.
For this festival, Zacharevic created the Mirrors George Town street art project, with his art strategically placed along a self-guiding Art & Heritage Walk. The placements were marked on maps which came with short stories, interesting facts on Penang and impressions of the diversity of local residents. Zacharevic’s art is not only site-specific, they are interactive on-location and on-line. While his art provides endless photo opportunities, Zacharevic creates websites which showcase photographs sent to him by people who appreciate his works. Zacharevic feels that “street art is at its best when it stops being an individual painting and becomes a part of the public imagination”.
His most popular work is the two children on the real bicycle. It has become an iconic image of George Town. It has appeared on facebooks, blogs, local and international media. Zacharevic hopes to collaborate with local artists in his future murals. “This art is not only about the people in George Town but also for the people living here,” he said. With such an inclusive attitude, he is no doubt very popular with the locals. Meanwhile, as an artist, he is now in high demand. As he integrates into this society, we can expect him to be a key feature in the artistic landscape of Penang.