Scenes from a Graffiti Renaissance

23 November 2015

Social commentary or pure act of vandalism? Is its purpose to defy or beautify? The contrasts and contradictions of it all is what makes graffiti so fascinating.

Artist unknown

 

Social commentary or pure act of vandalism? Is its purpose to defy or beautify? The contrasts and contradictions of it all is what makes graffiti so fascinating.

 

Last year Petronas collaborated with 14 graffiti artists for Tanahairku for a massive street art project to commemorate Malaysia’s Independence Day and National Day. This massive wall art on the Lebuh Ampang car park by graffiti artists Klangblabla and Reeze is entitled The Malaysian Model Heart Kit.

 

In a country like Malaysia where contradiction can be found wherever you turn– heritage buildings set against towering skyscrapers and different cultures and religions coexist peacefully side by side, it’s no surprise as to why the graffiti subculture, for all its negative connotations, has found a home in the Klang Valley a.k.a. the Greater Kuala Lumpur area.

 

Tag, you’re it. Kuala Lumpur graffiti artist Carpet One’s intricate tag is emblazoned on a electrical box in Jalan Bukit Bintang.

 

What was once an inconvenience, a stubborn stain on properties far and wide, is becoming an art form in its own right. It is surprising how graffiti has so easily woven itself into this cityscape.

 

Katun’s masterpieces can be found everywhere around Klang Valley.

 

District Shop Gallery and its surrounding space is a good place to hunt for graffiti. This piece is by Reeze.

 

Project Burners leaves their initials in a back alley of Jalan Imbi.

 

Bukit Bintang may be known as a shopping destination but if you go off the beaten path, there are some hidden gems like this piece by Siek.

 

Graffiti by Jeff

 

From the alleys of Bangsar to abandoned buildings around Kuala Lumpur, you can find these wonderful works of art, and to think that some of them disappear in a blink of an eye, this impermanence is what makes graffiti so magical and so painfully tragic at the same time.

 

Familiar names in the graffiti scene, Kos, Cloakwork, Nestwo and Kenji Chai teamed up for this gigantic piece in Telawi, Bangsar

 

To see it in all its glory, one must certainly pay a visit to the infamous Klang River spot where an entire area by the riverbank was allocated for them. Renamed the “Sungai Klang Art Gallery”,in December 2010 the Kuala Lumpur City Hall made an unprecedented move to support the graffiti scene by taking part in KUL Sign Festival, an art event that invited international and local graffiti artists come together to beautify the concrete walls of the riverbank.

 

Along the riverbank of the Klang River at the Pasar Seni LRT marked a turning point Malaysian graffiti scene.

 

The area has now been become a public gallery of sorts and it holds the Malaysian Record for the longest graffiti wall in Malaysia. Here you can find works from some of the best graffiti artists from all over Malaysia in a single place. It’s long walls is a sight to behold that can truly only be fully appreciated in person.

 

Cloakwork addresses the topic of climate change in Melting at Laman Seni 7, Shah Alam

 

As Richard Back, an American writer once wrote, "A tiny change today brings a dramatically different tomorrow.” This change of attitude towards this once frowned upon activity has seen other city councils follow suit with other new public spaces for graffiti artists to express themselves legally.

 

Forgiveness by The Two Queens emerged the winning piece for the Bestnya Malaysiaku street art competition

 

With graffiti being embraced instead of resisted, more people are starting to understand that these street artists have the power to inspire and positively impact communities. Places like dull, tired walls of back alleys in surburban neighbourhoods are given new life through these city council supported competitions like Bestnya Malaysiaku and Urban Art Competition.

 

Even "The Man” (aka large corporations), have surprisingly become one of the graffiti scene’s main driving forces. Last year, Petronas reached out to 14 Malaysian street artists that gave them the opportunity to develop and create six giant murals on buildings across Kuala Lumpur to commemorate Merdeka and Malaysia Day.

 

Kenji Chai is one of the most well known artists that has emerged from the local scene. Here’s one spotted in Jalan Imbi.

 

“I can really feel that I belong to this country,” said Sabah-born graffiti artist Kenji Chai in the campaign video. "Really belong to this country, and I am proud of it and I will work hard for it.”

 

As seen by Miranda Yeoh

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