White walls replace graffiti art

The wall after workers painted over Zacharevic’s art piece and (inset) a passer-by taking a photo of the graffiti where an unknown person had drawn a figure of a policeman beside the knife-wielding man.

JOHOR BARU - Officials from the Johor Baru Municipal Council (MBJB) have painted over the controversial graffiti art by Lithuanian-born artist Ernest Zacharevic on a wall in Taman Molek here.

A van bearing the MBJB logo drove up to the area at around 4pm yesterday and several plain clothes men came down and painted over the graffiti using white paint.

A nearby restaurant worker who only wanted to be known as Ah Chai said a group of people who wanted to take pictures of the graffiti were shocked as the piece of art was painted over.

The graffiti depicted a man holding a knife in a corner waiting to ambush a woman.

Ah Chai said he was saddened by the development as the street had gained popularity after the art piece was painted.

Assistant photographer Casey Lim, 20, said that she had taken the day off to take a picture of the artwork but was upset that only a white wall greeted her when she arrived.

"This artwork has made Johor Baru so famous and I wanted to record it as a keepsake. This morning, I saw online that an unknown person had drawn a figure of a policeman beside the knife-wielding man and thought the controversy surrounding the artwork would die down," she said.

In the morning yesterday, residents noticed the extra character in the piece but no one has come forward to claim rights over it.

In response to this, Zacharevic posted a picture of the additional character on his Facebook page with a comment: "Now that's true vandalism! Malaysia never fails to amuse me."

Before the graffiti on the wall was painted over, Mayor Ismail Karim said a notice had been issued to the owner of the premises ordering that the wall be repainted within the next seven days.

He said a graffiti on the wall was classified as vandalism as it was done without permission.

MBJB public relations officer Aziz Ithnin said that the council decided to paint over the graffiti as the owner of the building said she did not have the time to repaint the wall.

The graffiti had attracted both positive and negative reactions from the public but several state officials commented that it could reflect the state in a negative light, especially in view of Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

Zacharevic, who gained fame locally for his graffiti in Penang, also painted two other pieces along Jalan Ros Merah in Taman Johor Jaya here.

The two are drawn side by side - one shows a light blue water slide, which ends with the snout of an actual water outlet dripping water, and for the other, he used existing green moss growing on the wall to draw tree branches with two people standing under them.

The artist is currently in Japan and is unavailable for comment.

Amazing street art by Ernest Zacharevic