Mural captures essence of Pangkor

Ooi (2nd left) receiving a plaque from the society's committee members.

STREET art brought vibrancy to Penang’s streets. Now, it is doing the same for one area of Pulau Pangkor in Perak.

A giant mural in front of the Chia Liang Kok Charitable Society building in Sungai Pinang Kecil is causing a buzz among locals on the idyllic island.

Many have stopped by to take photos with the approximately 36.5m-wide and 7.6m-tall artwork titled ‘Pangkor’s Native Birds with Flowers and Scenery’ done by Penang artist Ooi Kok Chuan.

Completed on Feb 9, it depicts a total of 88 birds from 45 different native species including sparrows, hummingbirds and hornbills, alongside plants like orchids.

“I selected the birds with the help of a nature guide and the society’s committee. We went for friendlier species rather than predatory ones to make the scene feel more welcoming to visitors, ” Ooi said.

The 56-year-old from Ayer Itam also included a horizon of Sungai Pinang Kecil with the Pangkor Jetty, Pangkor Floating Mosque and fishing villages in the background.

“We went out to sea on a motorboat to take photos for reference. From start to finish, the mural took about a month to complete. The aim was to capture the essence and beauty of Pangkor.

“It’s the first time I’ve done such a big piece. I’m delighted with what I’ve accomplished and hope it brings joy to all those who view it, ” said the artist, better known as K.C. Ooi.

The mural was painted on a retaining wall situated on a vacant piece of land.

Rather than having to cut weeds periodically and clean the site, the society’s committee decided to transform it into a local attraction.

They first held interviews with artists to explore design concepts. Ooi, who is the Penang Chinese Brush Art Society secretary and Balik Pulau International Art Village deputy chairman, was ultimately assigned the project in December 2020.

Following scouting trips, he created the overall design.

For better visualisation, he did enlarged sketches on paper and mapped them out on the wall.

Once the placements were finalised, the rest came naturally.

He painted almost daily from 8am to 7pm.

To make the birds more lively, he used a technique of Chinese brush painting called Gongbi – a careful, realist style that is the opposite of the more expressive Xieyi or ‘sketching thoughts’.

“Painting on such a large wall is very different from doing it on canvas. You have to use paints normally meant for building exteriors and the colours are harder to blend. It requires a lot of trial and error.

“Fortunately, the weather was good throughout the painting period. Many curious locals stopped by and offered me food and drinks. I’m very thankful for the kind Pangkorian hospitality, ” said Ooi, who is also an accomplished photographer.

He was a former president of the Photographic Society of Penang and currently serves as an adviser. Now a full-time artist, he hopes to undertake more large projects like this.

“The Chia Liang Kok committee is planning to launch this mural after the movement control order and we intend to apply for an entry into the Malaysia Book of Records. We hope this will become an iconic attraction for Pangkor, ” he added.

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