Penang Street Art Scene – Wall Murals and Wrought Iron Caricatures
Caricature, as defined in the Oxford dictionary: “A picture, description, or imitation of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect”
Can you imagine Penang George Town without it’s famed Street Arts? No Ernest Zacharevic’s mural wall paintings? No humorous wrought iron caricatures? Just plain walls with run-of-the-mill beige colours every which way you see? Unfathomable, right? But that was exactly the scenario not too many years ago. Tourist belt? Nay! Even true-blue Penangites didn’t think much of the inner George Town as a place one would wander and sightsee.
Prior to the recognition as a World Cultural Heritage Site on 2008, inner George Town was viewed as a rundown, dull, rough-around-the-edges sort of area. It was more of a place where the older Penangites go to do whatever business they need to do and get out as soon as possible. As it should be, considering inner George Town has its history traced to British colonial era of the late 18th century and that in the 1960’s, most buildings in the area were run down, many of them were as they were first built 200 plus years.
Inner George Town started to take on a new persona when the state government realized with a little imagination and planning, the exact “oldie” feel of the city can be reintroduced as an art form to attract locals and foreigners alike. A young Lithuanian-born artist, Ernest Zacharevic, was commissioned in 2012 to paint a series of wall murals around the city centre. At about the same time, a Bangsar-based creative studio, SCULPTUREATWORK was tasked to create wrought iron artworks that could tell the localised history of inner George Town in an effective yet humorous way. The first few artworks by Ernest and SCULPTUREATWORK were so well received and appreciated by all parties that everybody was thinking out loud it should have been done long ago. Well, better be late than never, right?
The artworks, both wall murals and wrought iron caricatures, kicked start a previously non-existing Penang Street Arts. Other artists have since come aboard to share their creative arts all over Penang. They are now the pride and joy of Penang, very much in the same league as Penang’s internationally recognised street food Char Koay Teow and Hokkien Mee. A visitor is no longer considered having visited Penang without at least seeing a few of the murals and caricatures.