Vibrant murals add life and colour to George Town

By ARNOLD LOH
north@thestar.com.my
Photos and video by CHAN BOON KAI

Eye-catching sight: Tourist from Barcelona Helena Vallaceperas, 25, taking a photo of Oo as he touches up his artwork on George Town’s longest wall of murals.

AFTER 13 months of hard work, six young artists finally completed the longest stretch of murals in the state.

They finished painting the 13 murals on the 50.3m-long wall of the flood mitigation pump house along Gat Lebuh Magazine, facing the Lebuh Noordin low-cost flats, last week.

Project leader Bowie Low, 40, said the murals depict the history and culture of Penang as well as the artists’ vision of the future.

At the junction of Gat Lebuh Magazine and Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong, the stretch of murals begin by telling the stories of Penang’s colonial past.

In the centre of the stretch of wall, art teacher Jim Oo Chun Hee, 26, capitalised on a small Chinese shrine and a large pipal fig or Bodhi tree growing out of the wall to depict scenes at the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling.

“There is an old local tale about a homeless mother and son who died in a village.

“The locals built this shrine to honour them,” said Oo.

Oo was inspired to paint the image of a young man cleaning the shrine’s roof. The young man stands atop a wooden stool and a real stool is sawn in half and attached to the wall with brackets and bolts to create a 3D effect.

Further down the stretch, glasswork artist Ng Yeong Sheng, 21, produced four graffiti art pieces to show Penang’s assets — festivities, heritage, shopping and hawker food.

“I like graffiti art. It lets me produce a message by adding elements without heeding reality,” Ng said.

Hearing and speech impaired artist Muhammad Hawari Hashim, 23, produced four murals to depict the future of Penang.

He painted semi-abstract murals of town scenes where trishas co-existed with overhead railway transit and towering buildings.

His final piece, which ends the stretch, shows the wan tan mee stall in Jalan Chulia at night amidst a backdrop of skyscrapers.

Low, who spoke on behalf of Muhammad Hawari, said the latter was a natural artist who had never learned art formally.

“That is why his paintings have a unique semi-abstract approach,” said Low, adding that Muhammad Hawari, works as a general assistant at the Penang Museum.

Imagination reigns: Four of the artists having a discussion at the wall in Gat Lebuh Magazine.

Low, who is also the director of the Museum of Glass at Mount Erskine, said he had approached the state government with a proposal to organise a group of young local artists to paint a sizeable mural last year.

“George Town has acquired a global brand as a city of murals and I wanted an opportunity for young local artists to show their skills,” he added.

He said Tanjung MP Ng Wei Aik had suggested this particular wall and also sponsored RM5,000 to pay for the paint and equipment.

“Our museum then gathered the local artists and spent about RM10,000 on allowances and expenses while the artists worked on the wall,” he said.

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