Street artists drawing attention in Malaysia

Street artists drawing attention in Malaysia
Patrons at Artisan Roast Coffee in Petaling Jaya enjoying a cuppa against a backdrop of large murals painted by artist Sari Sartje. Such murals are gaining popularity in the state. Artists are often paid to paint such murals by owners of the premises or local councillors.

KUALA LUMPUR- In downtown George Town, Penang, stalls selling T-shirts, fruits and canned drinks are sprouting near the city's newest attractions: wall murals.

Since the street art began popping up on the sides of pre-war shophouses in Georgetown last year, they have been drawing large crowds, turning a quick buck for everyone from the artists who paint them to nearby food vendors and cafes to purveyors of related knick-knacks.

For years, street art was largely underground - hastily created in the middle of the night by anonymous youth who then fled to avoid vandalism charges. Nowadays, artists are painting murals in broad daylight, often paid to do so by owners of the premises or local councillors.

One of them is Mr Louis Gan, 25, a street artist with speech and hearing disabilities, who found fame with his mural in Georgetown of a boy and a girl - his children - laughing gleefully while standing on a swing.

The painting was commissioned by the building's owner, Mr Loo Lye Hock, the owner of a printing firm.

These days, Mr Gan gets at least one order for a wall mural each month. He has painted cafes, including in Kuala Lumpur, and charges about RM80 (S$31) to RM100 per square foot, said Mr Gan Yee Chun, 24, Louis' brother and spokesman.

"We have to reject some projects because there is only so much Louis can do," Mr Gan told The Straits Times recently. "But, we are happy he has found a way to earn his living."

When he first started seven years ago, he got paid RM200 a mural, and split that with another artist. Now, he says, he gets paid between RM6,000 and RM20,000 each time, depending on the size and complexity of the work.

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