Monday, 28 December 2015

23. Escape in Kuala Lumpur

Probably the most prolific artist working his magic along the concrete walls of Kuala Lumpur's Klang River, is a man known by the street name ESCAPE VA. (The VA standing for Visual Art.)

Known better to his mother as Mohd Zaki bin Nordin from Ampang, K.L., the talented artist is no amateur. He has a diploma from the Malaysian Institute of Art and a degree in Graphic Design from K.L. Metropolitan University College. Before becoming a full-time muralist, he worked as an event coordinator and graphic designer, and painted commissioned works in his spare time.

But the streets were calling.

“It came to a point where it was a real struggle juggling between the two responsibilities. I eventually took the plunge to quit my nine-to-five job and focus on fulfilling my heart’s calling.” (Source: interview Leaderonomics online.)

His works have been seen on the streets since 2006. Many are portraits of women:

Some of his murals stand alone, while others are done in collaboration with fellow artists:

And some are just zany images:

We read somewhere that one of his favourite quotes is,
"Quality means doing it right when nobody is looking."
Clearly, ESCAPE has lived up to his own high standard.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

22. Easy Pickings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Part 11)

They say "if it works, don't fix it". So we carried out our second hunt for Kuala Lumpur street art in pretty much the same manner as the first.

Once again, we started with a subway ride, this time to the rather downtrodden area called Dato' Keramak, also by the stormwater drains. We descended via a garbage-strewn ramp:

to a subterranean level by the Klang River:

Once again, our hardest choice was how to get back and forth across the water, given that there were murals on both sides. We could, of course, have swum in front of the rapids:

Or clambered across the rather dubious-looking pipe-bridge that resembled a giant crocodile:

But, once again, we took the cowardly - but dry - way out by walking back up the ramp and crossing over a real bridge. 
Our effort was splendidly rewarded. We saw quite a few artistically drawn portraits like these by Mazen:
and SycoDe:
And, as usual, quite a few by very talented - albeit anonymous or illegible - artists:

There were also quite a few portraits of distinctly un-human types, like these by Gore:
and others unidentifiable:
Last, but not least, we saw some quite splendid artwork on the round pillars supporting the LRT above - not the easiest surface on which to work:

So there you have it, some of the gems mined from the longest stretch of street art in the world. Please keep in mind that we barely scratched the surface and you many want to journey to Kuala Lumpur to see what you can dig up on your own. We've given you directions to the mother lode of murals and we've told you about the hazards to watch out for. All we ask is that you not violate any local customs or laws while you're there:

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

21. Easy Pickings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Part 1)

(Mural by Malaysia's Medium Touch)

Unlike most cities in Southeast Asia, street art in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur is out in the open, easy to find, celebrated in an annual festival, and bunched together in select locations. You won't have to traipse over half the city in return for meagre reward.

But you will have to know a few things about KL to make your hunt worthwhile. Like which LRT station to get off at. In the case of today's post, it's the Pasar Seni LRT in one of KL's less salubrious parts of town - along the storm drains of the Klang River:

Both sides of the water are wall-to-wall with murals so you'll also have to know the best way to cross once you've finished viewing your first side. You could, for example, swim across the cascading waters:

Or bow your head and wade through the grungy culverts:

Call us cowardly, but we recommend taking the footpath back up to street level, crossing the regular bridge and taking the other footpath back down to storm-drain level.

Whichever way you choose, your reward will be a few hundred yards of really big murals. How big? Well consider that Heather is about 5'7:

That would make the average mural about 15 ft. high x 30 ft. wide. But these are no average murals, either in size or quality. Their creators have come from around the world, and the works have a distinct cartoon-like appearance to them. Have a glance at this one that came to life via the GIANTS SHALL RISE competition between Katun and Clogtwo:

Clogtwo, whose work appears on the right, is a Singapore-based "visual anarchist" who paints narratives that explore dark humour and social behaviour in everyday life. Katun, from Kuala Lumpur, started by sketching cartoon characters and now focuses on graffiti.

Some of our other favourites were by Ultra Boys, who hail from Belgium, France and Spain:

"Urban Guerilla" by Kenji (Chai), from Sabah, Malaysia, who was bred on comics, cartoon and storybooks and whose iconic dog, Chaigo, has made appearances in a number of countries:

Brindisi-born, now Milan-resident, Mr. Wany, a hip-hop afficionado, break-dancer and graffiti artist. He is art-school trained and has, over the years, worked his way through the worlds of graphic, canvas and urban arts, and more recently has found himself drawn to the world of tattoo:

A duo by Slacsatu, and some of his fellow members from Singapore's Zincnite Crew:

 "The Secret Hideout", which may be the title of the mural or the name of the crew that painted it:

This one called "We Got the Jazz":

And various and sundry paintings by artists whose indecipherable or absent signatures, or low internet profiles have rendered them, regrettably, invisible or unknown (to us):


At this point, you've still just scratched the surface of the hundreds of murals by the storm drains at the Klang. But this isn't a race. You may be feeling the heat from Malaysia's year-round 100+ temperature, dehydrated (unless you've remembered to bring a water bottle), claustrophobic from spending hours under the concrete canopy of the LRT line, or maybe just somewhat paranoid from having to tiptoe around the less-fortunate ones sleeping in the shadows - don't bother them and they won't bother you.

So we respectfully suggest that this would be a good time to call it a day and take the short path up to the refreshing view of KL's Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) and the city skyline:

We'll pick up where we left off, in our next post.