Rage against the Machine: Ernest Zacharevic's first street art in Jalan Sultan

Ernest Zacharevic's first street art at Kuala Lumpur's heritage street of Jalan Sultan, which is located near tourist hotspot Petaling Street. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Ernest Zacharevic's first street art at Kuala Lumpur's heritage street of Jalan Sultan, which is located near tourist hotspot Petaling Street. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 ― Street artist Ernest Zacharevic has returned to Kuala Lumpur for his very first artwork in the heritage street of Jalan Sultan.

Zacharevic's “Rage against the Machine” art installation, which Malay Mail Online spotted late last month, shows life-size paintings of seven schoolchildren with an actual portion of a schoolbus propped up against a wall.

The familiar schoolbus in yellow with “BAS SEKOLAH” stamped in bold black print on its side is accompanied by very lifelike painted smoke and flames billowing out from the front and surrounded by students in both the primary and secondary school outfits.

While Zacharevic said he does “like the music” produced by the American rap metal band Rage Against the Machine, he said he chose the name “for the play on words on the content of the artwork”.

Zacharevic, who had in the past used a bicycle and a motorcycle for his street murals, explained how he was offered the half-portion of the schoolbus.

“I am known for attaching vehicles to the wall and throughout my career I always strive for more ambitious projects. A few years ago, a friend called and asked if I wanted to buy half a bus, I was the only person he could think of who might be interested!

“The rest of the bus has been serving as a counter at my friend's restaurant in Butterworth, I’ve been planning how to execute the piece for the last 2 years,” the Penang-based Lithuanian artist told Malay Mail Online in an email interview yesterday.

A close-up look at Zacharevic's ‘Rage against the Machine’ art installation at 12-14, Jalan Sultan. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A close-up look at Zacharevic's ‘Rage against the Machine’ art installation at 12-14, Jalan Sultan. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Zacharevic said he has completed a number of works in Kuala Lumpur, adding that part of the reason he wanted to return to the city was because not many of his previous artworks have survived.

He confirmed that the “Rage Against the Machine” art installation is his first work in Jalan Sultan ― one of the oldest streets in the city where many pre-war shophouses still stand.

“I've been longing to work here for a while, the increasing state of development in the area is fast growing; Jalan Sultan is one of the few heritage streets left in Kuala Lumpur. I was so pleased to be able to draw attention to that before the street is lost forever,” he said.

Jalan Sultan intersects with Petaling Street ― which is popularly known as Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, with the art installation situated both at the opening of an alley that leads to the Lee Lam Thye Market and also just a short block away from one of Chinatown’s two main gates.

Just opposite the art installation and few steps down along Jalan Sultan is where the Klang bus stand and two other government-owned buildings were demolished in 2012 to give way for a new Mass Rapid Transit train station that is rapidly being constructed, while further up Jalan Sultan is a paid open-air carpark which was formerly a row of pre-war shophouses decades ago and is just next to a pre-war building housing the 100-year-old Kwong Fook Wing tailor store.

The artwork sports Zacharevic's ‘Zach’ signature in both black and red on the side of the schoolbus and on sliding panels of a window respectively. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
The artwork sports Zacharevic's ‘Zach’ signature in both black and red on the side of the schoolbus and on sliding panels of a window respectively. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

The swiftly-changing face of Jalan Sultan and the streets in its surrounding area can also be seen through the site of the artwork itself, with the wall it is attached to being the surviving remnant of a store that caught fire last August and that was torn down for its current use as a paid open-air carpark.

“I was aware that the previous building had burnt down, however the burning bus in the installation is more of a coincidence,” Zacharevic said.

Zacharevic said his art installation project was an “ambition” of his and was self-funded and self-produced.

“Most of the work was done back in my studio in Penang, with a great help from a good bunch of friends it only took the weekend to install at Jalan Sultan,” he said.

Zacharevic's mural of children on a bicycle in Armenian Street, Penang is one of his most iconic artwork. ― Picture by KE Ooi
Zacharevic's mural of children on a bicycle in Armenian Street, Penang is one of his most iconic artwork. ― Picture by KE Ooi

One of Zacharevic's most iconic and popular street art is his mural of two children on a bicycle in a street in Penang's Unesco World Heritage Site George Town, which he confessed to being surprised that it is still in existence despite the transient nature of such artwork.

“I don’t generally expect the pieces to last, they are not designed to. 5 years later I’m still surprised the children on bicycle are there.

As for his latest artwork in Jalan Sultan, Zacharevic does not expect it to stay for long.

“For Rage Against the Machine I had the owner's consent to install the work, but the building is set for redevelopment the work will only survive a few months best case scenario,” he said.