Balik Pulau Street Art: A Tiny World Hidden In A Narrow Alley

Balik Pulau is a quaint town in the southwestern part of Penang Island lost half way between the airport and fishing villages.

Balik Pulau
Balik Pulau

Better known for fruit farms, it is an unlikely place to look for street art. Perhaps unfairly, but one would think that younger generation would be looking somewhere else to hang out and, subsequently, leave a visual footprint of their presence.

It was an unexpected treat when one day riding in a car, I spotted a huge mural. It was Silversmith, a well-known work of Ernest Zacharevich. It’s location often loosely listed as Penang, so I made a rookie mistake assuming that it meant somewhere in George Town.

Balik Pulau Street Art
Silversmith by Ernest Zacharevich

Stuck in traffic, I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture. Hence, I came back couple weeks later. This time, though, better prepared. I found out the name of the place where Silversmith landed. It’s called Balik Pulau. Moreover, the person who inspired this mural was the local craftsman Fong Ten Sent. Sadly, he passed away in 2016.

Julia Volchkova, a talented Russian artist, left her distinct mark there too.

Balik Pulau Street Art
Silat by Julia Volchkova. Silat is Malay traditional martial art
Balik Pulau Street Art
Rubber Tapping by Julia Volchkova
Balik Pulau Street Art
Fisherman by Julia Volchkova

I was convinced that there should be more. Following a theory that crowd always follows the lead, I decided to walk around to check if I get lucky and find some other works. What are chances that more artists discovered this quiet town?

A monkey appeared next. The mold-infested wall almost entirely consumed it by now.

Balik Pulau Street Art
Monkey by unknown artist

Next, a face poked out from an alley. It’s psychedelic style caught my eye across from a street.

Balik Pulau Street Art
Just a face? by unknown artist

Determined to take a closer look, I almost missed an incredible work.

Balik Pulau Street Art
Colorful world is hidden from view

In a narrow, smelly alley exists an incredible world of its own. It is full of tiny colorful beings, a happy cat, durians, a sleeping giant á la Gulliver… Whoever painted it, cleverly incorporated exposed pipes and wirings of a real building into a whimsical mural.

Balik Pulau Street Art
A wall full of adventures

The painting is so humongous, and the alley is so narrow that it is impossible to view it in full. You have to walk along the wall to admire all elements of this epic masterpiece one by one.

Balik Pulau Street Art
Tons of durians flying around

This video helps to look at all details and gives an idea of how large it is.

It is an incredible painting tackled in the most unfortunate location. It could be the perfect illustration of “you have to see it to believe it” expression except you can’t. Which is sad. It would be awesome to see the whole picture from some distance.

Balik Pulau Street Art
A sleepy giant
Balik Pulau Street Art
A playful cat or hungry one?
Balik Pulau Street Art
Small people, huge durians

Despite all efforts, I couldn’t find any information about the artist. Attaching a name to this mural would be great. If you know who the author is, drop me a note in comments below. Same goes for the monkey and the face. Thanks!

If you are interested in street art, read about awesome murals we found in Ipoh. It’s relatively easy to get there either from Penang or KL and totally worth a trip.

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Balik Pulau Street Art offers a few surprises beyond Zacharevich and Volchkova famous murals in this quaint town in the middle of Penang Island

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18 thoughts on “Balik Pulau Street Art: A Tiny World Hidden In A Narrow Alley”

  1. Awesome street arts. I really love quality street arts and these are quality. I have been to Penang many times but I never knew of this. Thanks.

  2. The street art here is incredible, what an amazing surprise to find it in an unexpected place. I took a similar approach recently in Santiago – I found this incredible mural while walking around, and decided there HAD to be more, so took a bit of an aimless wander around. Sure enough, street art everywhere!

  3. Gosh, what amazing art. I love to seek out street art on my travels, I’ve seen some great examples in Europe but these are beautiful. I love the cat – so playful! I’d definitely visit if I made it to Penang.

  4. I love the sleeping giant with the tiny world! It reminds me of a children’s book or short story. I’m really obsessed with street art and I love to see how each city embraces this form of art. Great video showing the scale and details. I’ve never been to Penang but when I get there, I”m going to look for this street!

  5. This looks like so much fun. I love street art, and to find it hidden away in a tiny alley makes it all that much more like a treasure hunt. I love the shot with the wires and the little people. I’d love to see this next time I’m there.

    • Thank you, Cathy :). You are right about similarities between Silversmith and Vhils’ works. Zacharevich used “reverse graffiti” method(essentially, washing off grime with power washer) while Vhils blasts off surfaces.

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