Amid Covid-19, Creator of Ipoh Art Lane shifts exhibition outdoors by paintings on banners

Mural artist Eric Lai would upkeep the pieces he drew at the back lane of Taman Jubilee weekly as he felt a sense of responsibility for it. — Picture via Facebook
Mural artist Eric Lai would upkeep the pieces he drew at the back lane of Taman Jubilee weekly as he felt a sense of responsibility for it. — Picture via Facebook

IPOH, July 1 — A change is coming for Ipoh Art Lane.

From the wonderful mural art at Taman Jubilee, which has become the city’s tourist attraction, its 44-year-old creator Eric Lai now plans to have an outdoor exhibition.

It will showcase Malaysia’s endangered animal species drawn by himself and his students.

Lai said initially, he had planned for an indoor exhibition last month but due to the enforcement of the movement control order (MCO), he was forced to improvise.

“The drawings were drawn by my students during MCO in March and April when they were cooped up at homes.”

Why an outdoor exhibition then?

Lai said it is to allow more people to enjoy the drawings.

“If we were to do it indoors, not many people may come due to SOPs put in place because of Covid-19.”

“So I thought why not print the drawings into banners and hang it up over the mural art.”

While Lai, who specialises in working with special children, hopes to have the outdoor exhibition before the year ends, he is hampered by cost.

“I am trying to work something out,” he said when asked how he plans to overcome the issue. 

Lai’s mural art had been used to promote the various cultures and forgotten traditional games in Malaysia.

If you are worried the drawings of the endangered animals would replace all the mural art, Lai assured that he would leave the popular ones uncovered so that tourists can still take pictures of them.

How Lai started

Some of Eric Lai's charges are also roped in to draw the mural behind the back lane of Taman Jubilee. Today the back lane has been recognised by Perak state government as the Ipoh Art Lane. — Picture via Facebook
Some of Eric Lai's charges are also roped in to draw the mural behind the back lane of Taman Jubilee. Today the back lane has been recognised by Perak state government as the Ipoh Art Lane. — Picture via Facebook

Growing up in a poor family, having proper materials to draw was a luxury.

Lai said he got his drawing bug from his mother.

“As my house had very little furniture, my mother would decorate it with her drawings. Together with her children, we would draw on every corner of the house. Even the open area in front of our house, that was filled with sand. We used it to draw.”

Lai continued with his hobby before becoming an art teacher.

The opportunity for Lai to draw on a big scale presented itself in November 2012 when a friend, Yap Pit Wai, proposed to Lai that he decorate the back lane of Taman Jubilee with his colourful drawings.

At that time, mural art was just starting to gain popularity in Malaysia.

The first drawing that was put up by Lai was in January 2013.

It depicted a lion dance.

Since then, Lai’s art has covered 300 meters of the back lane or about 50 drawings.

“To ensure the colours remain vibrant, I will conduct touch up work as the paint may wear off due to the weather,” he said. 

Some work has been repaired. 

“I repainted it as I felt responsible for it. If the paint wears off, it will make the back lane look dull,” he added.

The touching-up work is done weekly. 

Despite some of his pieces falling victim to vandals, Lai was not disheartened.

“The beauty of art is in the eyes of the beholder. If someone draws graffiti over my art, I will complement it by drawing around the graffiti.”

Lai’s effort did not go to waste when it was recognised by the Perak state government and named Ipoh Art Lane in 2014.

“From a lane that was unkempt and a dumping ground for rubbish, the road has been resurfaced and lit up with new street lamps.”

“It is also a must visit place by tourists who take photos with the murals.”

With that, Lai feels he has done his part to help the community.

From culture to forgotten traditional games, mural artist Eric Lai will now embark on drawing to tackle the issue of helping special children. — Picture via Facebook
From culture to forgotten traditional games, mural artist Eric Lai will now embark on drawing to tackle the issue of helping special children. — Picture via Facebook


 

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