GEORGE TOWN, Dec 22 — Walk through the Heritage Zone of George Town and you will see crowds of people taking pictures of, and with, Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic’s wall art.
Sure, the laughing children on a bicycle or the little boy trying to reach up to a window... they are a little faded now, but some two years on, they are still as popular with tourists and locals alike.
Now, fans of Zacharevic are in for a treat as the artist will be introducing a series of small murals and street installations all over George Town in the next few weeks before unveiling his first solo exhibition.
The “frame on the hole” in Nagor Road that was put up last week is just the first of many more to come.
The installations are part of a promotional blitz to promote his upcoming solo exhibition next month.
“Ernest has been an artist since he was 12 but he has never had a solo exhibition before so this is his very first, the first big step for him as an artist,” said his publicist and creative partner Gabija Grusaite in an email interview.
The exhibition, which will kick off on January 17 and end on February 14, is titled “Art is Rubbish/ Rubbish is Art” and will be at the old Hin Bus depot.
“This is like a first album release for a musician so there needs to be a strong story told, the venue and locations have to be perfect,” Grusaite said.
It was after years of planning and searching for the perfect place that Zacharevic decided on Penang as this island and Malaysia have been a continuous source of inspiration for him.
“Art is Rubbish/ Rubbish is Art” is the result of his deep fascination with Penang; he keeps coming back to stay for short periods of time.
Penang is also where he achieved fame for his series of wall murals done under George Town Festival 2012 all over George Town.
“This island and Malaysia in general has prompted him to continuously experiment and look for new ways of expression, this is why he keeps coming back here,” his publicist said.
On his choice of an old abandoned bus depot, the Hin Bus Company Depot along Brick Kiln Road, as the spot for his exhibition, Grusaite said, “It has been abandoned for years and still holds layers of history within its walls so Ernest is keen to bring it back to life as a meeting point between new and old,” she said.
The old depot has been abandoned since the Hin Bus Company, which was rebranded as KGN Hin Bus, closed down several years ago.
It used to be one of the main public bus companies that plied several routes on the island before RapidPenang was introduced in 2007.
“The depot has a huge space for Ernest to work on so he will fill the space with new, never-seen-before artwork,” Grusaite said.
The exhibition, which promises to be different from conventional art installations in modern art galleries, will feature indoor, outdoor and semi-outdoor galleries.
Amongst the artworks to be featured will include his now-familiar style of wall murals, studio artwork and other installations that will only be unveiled when the exhibition opens on January 17.
“He will be producing a series of smaller murals and street installations like the “frame on the hole” all over George Town to promote the exhibition so keep a look-out for these,” Grusaite added.
The whole theme of Zacharevic’s upcoming exhibition is multi-layered but it is loosely based on recycling of objects and ideas in a very broad sense.
She explained it is meant to tell the people that one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure so most artworks will be painted on objects found in the streets of Penang.
“This is to evoke awareness amongst the people about their surroundings and that it is constantly changing so it is up to Malaysians to decide for themselves what is art and what is rubbish,” she said.
To Zacharevic, there is astonishing beauty to be found in places where no one is looking and “rubbish” in this sense will lead to an adventurous exploration of the margins, of things lost and forgotten and of the people that dwell on the edge of the society.
The “frame on the hole” drew the attention of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng who said it will not be removed but will serve as a reminder to the local authorities to take heed when it comes to complaints on public infrastructure.
Zacharevic had turned the small square hole, located near the corner of Nagor Road and Hutton Lane, into a frame with a small ball shackled to it inside the hole while a couple of existing weeds were left to thrive as part of the installation.
A check on the old Hin Bus Company depot showed contractors busily clearing up the place, securing any loose wiring and making it safe for public to walk around.
According to one of the contractors there, the peeling paint on the walls and the aged look of the place will be left as it is as per the instructions given by Zacharevic.
His solo exhibition opens at 8.30pm on January 17.