Following Penang, which commissioned a series of street murals in 2012 for its George Town Festival, in 2014 Ipoh also got its own set of murals from the same artist. The murals by Ernest Zacharevic, the artist responsible for murals in Penang, are located close together in Ipoh’s Old Town area. Since these murals were completed local artists have also been busy creating hundreds of other street art paintings and installation all over the city which are now a major tourist attraction in Ipoh.
Ernest Zacharevic Murals
Ernest Zacharevic is an artists of Lithuanian descent whose now prolific street art has lead to him being described as Malaysia’s answer to Britain’s Banksy. This comparison, however, only goes as far the similarities in the artistic medium which both painter have adopted.
Ernest Zacharevic is different to Banky is that most of his artwork is about Malaysia culture, particular day to day life in Malaysia. Unlike Banksy, Ernest Zacharevic’s work is for the most part not overtly political. The only artwork Ernest Zacharevic has done in Malaysia which has had a social message was a mural in Johor Bharu highlighting the city’s crime problem, and this mural was quickly painted over.
Ernest Zacharevic completed 8 murals on the walls of the Old Town each focusing on a different theme. Three of the murals are coffee related, which is partly because coffee is a popular drink in Malaysia and partly because the work was sponsored by the the OLDTOWN coffee company, which is a leading coffee producer in Malaysia.
‘Paper Plane’ relates to a theme which features heavily in Ernest Zacharevic’s work in Penang, which is the experience of childhood and in particular children’s imagination.
‘Evolution’ is an interesting work as it is painted in the the style of a traditional Chinese water colour painting and relates to Ipoh’s history as a one time centre of the tin mining industry. Tin prices collapsed in the 1960s and 1970s which sent Ipoh into decline. Ipoh is now beginning to prosper again as a consequence, in part, of tourism.
Another feature of Ernest Zacharevic’s works in Ipoh and in Penang is incorporating existing features of buildings and installations into his paintings. The most famous mural in Ipoh, ‘Trishaw’, depicts an old man collecting rubbish with a half a trishaw bike stuck to the wall adding a three dimensional perspective. In ‘Girl’ the girl in the painting is climbing up to peer into three rectangular openings in a wall whose purpose is not immediately apparent.
Murals by Local Artists
Ernest Zacharevic’s work has inspired others to produce their own wall murals. Two of the best are on the Eastern section of Concubine Lane. One depicts a couple eating curry noodles, which is dish for which Ipoh known. The fourth chair in the scene is a real chair.
Next to the mural of people eating curry noodles is a depiction of three children jumping for joy.
On the corner of Hale Alley there is a figure waving a flag in a traditional Chinese dance under Chinese lanterns and a girl trying to open the shutter of a window which has been painted onto the wall, and therefore cannot be opened.
In the same car parking area where you will find two of Ernest Zacharevic’s works local artists have added a large mural showing a pile of cars stacked one on top of the other in a confined space.
One the more unusual pieces of art, which is not signposted nor within the main area where the other pieces of street work are located, is the front section of a truck suspended from the front of a modern apartment block. The installation is next door to a lawyer’s office and so out of place as to appear absurd, which we assume was the artist’s intention.
Street art has gone from being outside in Ipoh to becoming incorporated into businesses. The coffee shop on Tun Sambathan has a fantastic mural of a man making coffee in olden times, and through the opening to right hand side of mural there are real people actually making coffee in a more modern style of kitchen.
In fact so ubiquitous has street art become in Ipoh Old Town local businesses have gone from using street signs to painting their signs on the walls around their shop, rather as people did in the past before printing technology became cheaper and more effective.
The street art scene in Ipoh is ever expanding and growing to other locations in the city and we expect to see new and ever more exciting work the next time we visit Ipoh.
Location of Ipoh Old Town
- The 8 Ernest Zacharevic wall murals are all located in Ipoh’s Old Town on the west side of the Kinta River and to the east of the Ipoh Railway Station.