IPOH - A large-scale project to paint 57 wall murals around here came to an abrupt halt when vandals painted graffiti on the walls.
Artist Eric Lai, 38, said he completed 33 pieces of artwork on the walls of several buildings at an alley behind Jalan Masjid and Jalan Sultan Iskandar here.
"The project was supposed to be launched in conjunction with the country's 57th Merdeka Day," he said.
"However, with the graffiti, I am not sure whether the artwork can be completed in time," he added.
Lai said the graffiti was discovered on July 30 when his students went to the alley to paint images of lemang.
"And I was shocked when one of the premises owners called me to inform me about the latest graffiti," he said, adding that the wall had been defaced with an image of a skull praying in a strange way.
"I am now worried for my safety. I am also worried for my students and family," said Lai, who runs an art studio in Bercham.
Lai said the Ipoh City Council had approached him to carry out the project, which was initiated to "add life to the dirty looking walls" and turn it into an art lane.
"I am saddened by the irresponsible act," he said. "I have lodged police reports as some of the logos scribbled may be seen as representing certain groups."
The empty walls, where the remaining artwork was supposed to be done, were sprayed with vulgarities.
Several logos, probably representing underworld groups, were sprayed beside the completed artwork.
However, tourists still visited the alley and were seen taking pictures of the murals.
The paintings on the pre-war buildings depicted children playing hide-and-seek, dulang washers, a man bearing a kavadi, a wayang kulit show, a kuda kepang dancer, workers tapping rubber, a bharatanatyam dancer and a Chinese cultural dance.
One of his latest artwork was a black and white mural depicting an airplane, in memory of the 298 passengers and crew members of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
Housewife Nurul Huda Al-Hassan, 32, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, said she happened to catch the murals while passing by the street.
"I was so excited that I parked my car at once and took my three-year-old daughter to have a look at the beautiful artwork," she said. "The murals capture the multi-racial aspects of Malaysia," she added.
"The artwork is amazing, but I am disappointed with the graffiti by some irresponsible people," she added.
Council corporate affairs principal assistant director Normala Latiff said: "We will investigate. The culprit can be charged under the council's by-laws for vandalism."