Art scene scales new heights

Norazlina Ismail, 38, and family members taking a wefie with the container murals in Kampung Terang.

PERCHED high up on a vast padi field in Kampung Terang in Balik Pulau, Penang, are three vertical cargo containers, installed for the Penang International Container Art Festival (Picaf).

The 12m (40ft) containers are arranged in a row to form a wall almost three storeys high to showcase murals by Sarawakian artists Leonard Siaw and Aries Kong (Jagung) titled ‘The Joy of Harvest’ and by Russian artist Marat Danilyan titled ‘Once at Balik Pulau’s Street Market’.

The murals depict visual stories of Balik Pulau’s quaint lifestyle, the town’s agriculture industries as well as its street hawker scene.

A small information board pasted beside the container lists other attractions to be explored in the area.

At night, the containers are illuminated by spotlights.

Penang tourism development, arts, culture and heritage committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said Balik Pulau was selected among five locations in the state where containers with murals will be put on display throughout the festival period.

“Balik Pulau, rich in natural resources, famous for its durians, nutmegs, fishing villages and wide landscapes of padi fields and pristine beaches is a destination highly valued by the state and a key area in the Penang Tourism Master Plan.

“The purpose of listing Balik Pulau as one of the locations in Picaf is to promote tourism in the area, giving this quaint countryside some well-deserved exposures and recognition.

“Kampung Terang is the most remote location out of the five locations of the festival.

“Unknown to many, Kampung Terang in Balik Pulau and Mr Brown Avenue in Taiwan share some similarities. Both offer visitors and cyclists rare opportunity to traverse through peaceful padi fields accompanied by scenic views of mountains.

“With Balik Pulau in our backyard, one need not travel all the way to Taiwan for such a unique outdoor experience,” he said at the launch of the festival in the middle of the padi field recently.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, in his speech, said Picaf would put Penang on the map once again as a leading arts and culture hub in the region.

“This is the first time such a festival is being held in Asia, where shipping containers are turned into mural installations.

“The festival demonstrates that Penang is a place prepared to try new things and our willingness to think out of the box has elevated Penang’s thriving art scene to new heights,” he said.

Chow added that apart from Penang’s art scene having garnered many international accolades in recent years, its tourism industry too is on rapid growth.

“The Guardian listed Penang as one of the Best Street Arts in the World in 2013 and Penang was also the only the Asian destination to be listed in Lonely Planet’s Street Art book in 2017.

“Last year, Penang made headlines again as the 7th Most Instagrammed City in the world for street art.

“Since George Town made Unesco World Heritage list, the state has been riding a tourism boom that now attracts millions of visitors each year.

“Based on statistics from Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd, the passenger movement in 2019 recorded 8,325,849 passengers, which is a 6.92% growth compared to 7,786,849 passengers in 2018,” he said.

The inaugural Picaf, themed ‘Penang Local Identities’ and organised by Can Can Public Art PLT, aims to engage local and international visitors to experience the diversity of the state through arts.

Five locations have been identified where 10 container murals by 12 international and local artists will be put on public display until the end of May.

The other locations are in Prangin Mall in George Town featuring ‘The Trishaw Rider’ by artist Sasha Korban from Ukraine and ‘Tribute to the late Chuah Thean Teng’ by Bibichun from Penang.

The installation in Karpal Singh Drive will feature ‘Hope for the Future’ by Julia Volchkova from Russia and another in progress by Kenji Chai from Sabah.

On the mainland, the installation in Aspen Vision City in Batu Kawan will feature ‘Offshore’ by Emmanuel Jarus from Canada and ‘Connection’ by Caryn Koh from Kuala Lumpur.

Artist Judith de Leeuw from Denmark as well as Abdulrashade from Penang and Andharas from Malacca will soon come up with their container murals at Dataran Pemuda Merdeka in Butterworth.

Also present at the launch were Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang and Can Can Public Art chief executive director Tan Chor Whye.

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