Photos: Malaysian Street Art With an Interactive Twist

Southern California native Catherine Mar has traveled the world and called Irvine, Boston, Shanghai, and San Francisco home. Mar's interests include urban exploration, photo journalism, portraitures, street art, and emerging technologies. Her photography has been featured in galleries, books, music albums, magazines, and websites. When she's not taking photographs, the Boston University alum works as an IT professional in the San Francisco SoMa startup landscape.

In the summer of 2012, Mar was in Penang, Malaysia aiming to photograph the local street food and architecture. Instead she stumbled across massive painted murals that invited interaction from passersby. We reached out to her through email to find out more about her photographs and the paintings in them.

Who painted these murals? Did you ever meet the artist in person? 

The murals were painted in 2012 for the Penang George Town Festival by the Lithuanian-born artist Ernest Zacharevic as part of his Mirrors of Georgetown project. I never met him in person. His street art depicts children at play. By blending ordinary city objects into his murals, he creates a playful interactive canvas. For example, Children on a Bicycle has locals and tourists alike climbing on the objects, effectively becoming part of the art.

Is street art thriving in Malaysia? How did you come across this particular series?

I stumbled across this series completely by accident. My original targets in Penang were the infamous street food and architecture. On my first day, I wandered by Zacharevic’s Broken Hearts, which depicts a heart broken across two phone booths. Directly across from this piece is an iron caricature-sculpture of a cheating husband by Tang Mun Kian. Every other corner I turned seemed to hide an impressive street art piece, such as the giant child jumping across buildings or the boy taking his pet dragon for a walk.

What do the citizens of George Town and Penang think of their houses and doors being adorned this way?

I felt the locals embraced the works of art that adorned their homes. The addition of color and liveliness appeared welcome in the weary streets. Unlike most street art I have encountered in my travels, the art around George Town seemed to be designed with the people and city in mind. The art uses the existing architecture as part of the experience and captures the essence of life in Penang. Most of the pieces are not overpowering, and complemented the historical neighborhood.

About the Author

Profile picture for user Tahiat Mahboob
Tahiat Mahboob is Asia Society's Senior Multimedia Producer. She grew up in Bangladesh, worked at New York Fashion Week and taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.