Home Arts & Lit Focus on … Ernest Zacharevic

Focus on … Ernest Zacharevic


Ernest Zacharevic and his first ever solo exhibition in Penang, Malaysia.

On January 17th, Ernest Zacharevic opened his first solo exhibition: “Art is Rubbish/ Rubbish is art” in the warm, clustered streets of Penang, Malaysia. The Lithuanian artist is known for transforming walls with ironic, lighthearted murals: “I have always been fascinated by Malaysia’s culture and history; especially reflected in its textures, old walls and heritage shop houses”, Zacharevic states. The exhibition is held in George Town’s Old Hin Bus Depot, an abandoned, decaying building, recently given a second life as an open art space.

Image credit: Ernest Zacharevic
Image credit: Ernest Zacharevic

Inside, gunny sacks have been turned into canvases, with drink packets painted onto wooden shutters and toy weapons used as coral in an aquarium. All his materials are sourced locally; wood, blinds, even an old kavadi for his 23 pieces on show.

His art is based on the concept of “one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure”. The exhibition explores how individuals judge an environment, deeming what is art and what is rubbish. It seems odd to find such success and a home in this small, crime riddled town. But these peeling streets are what have fueled this artist’s career – what is creativity? A question once put to him, he replies: “life”.

27 years old, Ernest Zacharevic trained classically in Vilnius, then studied in London graduating with a first in fine art. FIve years on, bored with the city, he travelled abroad, stumbling across his inspiration – Malaysia: “all the textures, old walls, pealing paint. It’s amazing; I was itching to leave a mark since the first day I arrived there”. Interestingly, another influence to this artist is animation: “[it] is a big passion of my life. The term comes from Latin word ‘animare’ which means ‘to give life’ or ‘to encourage’”.

Image credit: Juxtapoz Magazine Online.
Image credit: Juxtapoz Magazine Online.

Indeed, his art is a way of invoking awareness: “artwork is always a communication”. One of his famous murals is a Lego woman carrying a Chanel handbag, with a knife-wielding Lego man hiding around the corner. Zacharevic told the BBC that he “noticed many people feel extremely unsafe. Everyone I talked to – no matter what their situation – would say, ‘Take care of yourself and hide your bag””. His mural represents his concern, making citizens and tourists aware of the town’s high crime rate. Unsurprisingly, local officials were not amused by this and sent workers to paint over it; hiding any comment on the area’s issues and culture. Another controversial artist it seems, another Banksy? Zacharevic is “Malaysia’s answer to Banksy” according to the BBC, yet when questioned about this himself, he dismisses it: “Banksy Hanksy”.

This artist is talented, inspiring and actually “big in Asia”. For the meantime he will continue his street art in Penang, despite an increasing global interest.

Art is Rubbish/Rubbish is Art is ran from 17th January to the 14th February. If somehow a private jet can be obtained, a visit to see Zacharevic’s art is a must.


Charlotte Graham

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