My top 10 Penang street art murals and where to find them

There were two main things on my radar when heading to Penang, Malaysia. First: street food; and second: street art.

Penang, and in particular its capital George Town, has a compelling cultural scene that flourished after George Town was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The city’s cultural identity was cemented when the Penang State Government embarked on a branding exercise for ‘Marking George Town’. This culminated in the installation of the city’s signature steel-rod caricatures that humorously convey the stories of the streets and communities.

Later, in 2012, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic‘s work on ‘Mirrors George Town’, which was commissioned by the Penang Municipal Council as part of the George Town Festival, helped to solidify George Town’s reputation as a creative city with a rapid cultural heartbeat. Zacharevic’s interactive street art murals have undoubtedly influenced other artists and attracted visitors keen for the opportunity to be part of the artwork. However, there are many other artists whose works are scattered around this compact city and discovering Penang’s street art is akin to embarking on a mini treasure hunt.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

It was tough, but I narrowed down 10 of my favourite Penang street art pieces in no particular order. Here goes!

My top 10 Penang street art murals

1. Kung fu girl / The little girl in blue

Although large in scale, don’t be surprised if you unwittingly miss this impressive mural by Zacharevic of the young girl with long bangs covering her eyes, splayed on the side of a building next to a gated temple. The piece exudes a certain cheekiness, with the young girl using the window to lift herself up into a prominent position, trying to get the attention of the passer-by. It can be tricky to get a good photo from below without the gate in the frame, so make sure to bring a long-armed comrade along if you haven’t been genetically blessed with long limbs.

Where to find it: On Jalan Muntri between Love Lane and Leith Street.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

2. Boy eating cendol

This striking piece by Canadian artist Emmanuel Jarus is of a 16-year-old local boy named Andersen, who was with Jarus when he tried his first bowl of the popular Penang dessert cendol from the iconic ‘Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul’ stall where the mural is located. Aside from it capturing a moment in time, I particularly like the use of the bright geometric shapes to build the image of the face—perhaps an ode to the colourful dessert itself!

Where to find it: Above the ‘Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul’ stall on Jalan Penang—it’s the one with the long line of people in front of it.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

3. The ballerina

This is a tiny and unassuming piece depicting a ballerina delicately balancing on the arch of the building. Artwork doesn’t need to be bold to grab your attention and I was instantly drawn to the simplicity of this image.

Where to find it: The corner of Stewart Lane and Love Lane.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

4. Only you can stop air pollution

This ethically minded mural was completed by Kuala Lumpur–based graffiti artist Cloakwork, and it is located near the ‘boy on bike’ piece by Zacharevic. This is probably one of the more progressive works in George Town, and the cigarette butts sticking out of the wall are ingenious.

Where to find it: Ah Quee Street

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

5. Love me like your fortune cat

This is one of 12 cat murals that were painted for the ‘101 Lost Kittens’ project, an initiative by Artists for Stray Animals (ASA) to promote awareness of stray animals in the area. The colour palette is aesthetically pleasing in general, but the visual message of the work is also extremely clever and takes the piece to another level.

Where to find it: Armenian Street

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

6. Lang Hoose Girl

This mural isn’t a well-known piece of art in George Town, but I love its exuberance and innocence. It makes me happy looking at it and sometimes that’s the only reason you need to give something the tick of approval.

Where to find it: On the side of the Lang Hoose guesthouse on the corner of Beach St and Lorong Toh Aka.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

7. Little boy with pet dinosaur

This is another mural that was completed by Zacharevic, which is located next to his ‘boy on bike’ piece. I like the juxtaposition between the painted and drawn elements, as well as the playful feel of the overall work.

Where to find it: Ah Quee Street

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

8. Woman with monkey

This enormous mural looks out over a parking lot and is quite different to the other artwork found in George Town. It was created as part of the 2014 Urban Xchange street art festival and depicts an elderly woman with a monkey. The use of the lines and colour palette really lifts this piece.

Where to find it: Beach Street, between Pasar Street and Chulia Street.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

9. The real Bruce Lee would never do this

Although it’s faded and crumbling, you can’t miss out on seeing the kung fu legend himself—and in full flight, no less—delivering a kick to 2 kittens. I actually think the decay adds to the character of the piece and acts as an example of art merging with the natural and built environments.

Where to find it: Back lane off Ah Quee Street, between Lorong Pit and Beach Street.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

10. The Indian boatman

This striking mural of the Indian boatman is by Russian artist Julia Volchkova and highlights Stewart Lane’s role within the maritime industry. While some of the other murals have an element of innocence to them, Penang’s historic roots seep through the fine lines and detail of this particular piece.

Where to find it: On the wall of Clockwise Hostel on Stewart Lane.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Old lady selling Susu Soya Asli & Segar

Where to find it: Gat Lebuh Chulia, between Victoria Street and Pengkalan Weld.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

Boy on chair

Where to find it:  Cannon Street, between Acheh Street and Armenian Street.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

Boy on bike / Old motorcycle

Where to find it: Ah Quee Street

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

Brother and sister on swing

Where to find it: Gat Lebuh Chulia, between Victoria Street and Pengkalan Weld.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

Children playing basketball

Where to find it: Gat Lebuh Chulia, opposite the ‘Brother and sister on swing’ Penang street art.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

Grand Swiss Hotel murals

Where to find it: In front of the Grand Swiss Hotel on Chulia Street.

Penang street art murals | Where to find street art in Penang

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