Artist Ernest Zacharevic captures one of Penang’s living heritage treasures on a wall at Armenian Street.
By Rosalind Chua
Wall versus canvas — what’s your preference?
Most of my work is studio-based, but I have done a few murals before in Penang, some in London. I have always found street art an exciting form of art, not only for the thrill but also for the opportunity to create a piece of art that is site-specific and that appeals to an audience who normally wouldn’t get to see my work.
Why the clog maker?
Ng Chai Tiam is actually my next door neighbour who happened to fit the character I was looking for. This guy is a star! People call him the “heritage uncle”. I’ve seen foreign government officials coming around to check out his craft , I can’t deny that my choice was symbolic.
How long did it take?
Around a month to process the idea and make technical preparations, and three days of actual painting.
Did you worry about rain or if a flock of nervous pigeons might take a giant dump all over the wall?
Not at all! The painting might look detailed and fragile from far. But if you’d had a close up look at it, it does look like it’s been painted by a fl ock of nervous pigeons in bad weather conditions. I was aware of the different conditions the wall is exposed to, so I chose a style and materials that would blend naturally with the decay of the wall as well as the rest of the environment.
What was the signboard maker’s reaction? Who’s next?
I don’t think Ng believed that the project layouts I showed him were about to be transferred onto an actual wall until he was approached by journalists. Anyway he loved it. He’s a very easygoing and openminded guy, he came down to hang out while I was painting. Penang is full of amazing characters. Hard to tell who’s going to be painted next. I have ideas in the back of my mind, ready for when I come across someone whom I think fits the concept best.
Photography by Gabija Grusaite