A short 1.5 hours away by flight from Singapore, Penang’s capital, Georgetown was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 2008. Penang is a popular city in Malaysia and it’s easy to see why. People flock over for its famous street food: char koay teow (stir-fried rice noodles) and assam laksa, to say the most popular among the list.
Penang is also known for its vibrant street art scene. From mural paintings that combine with real items, as well as wrought-iron caricature installations, it’s fun to explore Georgetown by foot! The weather in Penang can get very warm though, so arm yourself with portable fans and body wipes!
Penang's Art Scene Wall Mural Paintings
Very famous by now, Ernest Zacharevic is the young and talented, Lithuania-born artist behind the main street wall murals in Georgetown. His work was the reason why I’d made Penang a destination! Zacharevic’s work depicts everyday Malaysian life with the locals as models. His art pieces combine wall paintings together with real-life installed items, making them highly interactive.
In a way, what made the murals even more precious is that they are fading over time. On the left, the wall painting of the boy holding a kite is fast disappearing. In fact, there are others of Zacharevic’s creations in Penang that had already faded off during my time of visit (Apr 2013).
I had no idea at all about wrought-iron art sculptures in Penang, so it was a delight to stumble upon them! Titled “Marking George Town”, a project commissioned by Penang Tourism Board and made by art company SCULPTUREATWORK, these caricature sculptures wittily describe Penang’s life and celebrates its heritage. The structures come with captions to educate their significance.
The wrought-iron piece on the left details how people used to place orders right from their units for noodles – by lowering a basket/metal container for the food. The piece on the right depicts Jimmy Choo, famous shoe and fashion designer. Jimmy Choo was born in Penang.
I love this piece above for its illustration and 3D look! “Church Street also housed the headquarters of the notorious Ghee Hin secret society”.
Other Art Forms
There are miscellaneous expressions of art in other places, including on the shutters of this shop (which happened to be closed that afternoon). Over at Chew Jetty, you might also stumble upon more paintings randomly.
The arts scene in Penang has since expanded now with even more pieces. Do your homework properly if you’re heading to visit!