Anyone who has visited Georgetown in Penang, would probably be familiar with the whimsical Children on Bicycle and Boy on Motorcycle murals emblazoned across shophouse walls. The murals are the work of Lithuanian multidisciplinary artist Ernest Zacharevic, whose expertise spans oil painting, spray painting, installations and sculptures.
The 31-year-old is currently based in Penang, and was recently roped in to design four limited edition bottles for Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label scotch whisky. When assembled together, the bottles form a picture of a traditional dragon dance — an apt motif, considering that they were released in conjunction with the Chinese New Year festive season. Only 4,000 of these bottles are available for purchase.
We recently met up with Zacharevic to find out more about his latest collaboration, as well as his experiences and artistic inspirations.
Lifestyle Asia (LSA): Can you tell us more about your designs for Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label bottles?
Ernest Zacharevic (EZ): The collaboration is an edition celebrating Chinese New Year, so I was inspired to incorporate [elements] that reflect my experience of the festive season in Penang. The design is full of symbols and details mirroring these ideas, and the colours are inspired by the tradition of Chinese porcelain design. It’s always exciting to bring something new to a project, rather than working in a studio. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with other creatives in applying my vision to this project.
LSA: How have people responded to your bottle designs?
EZ: I have noticed a lot of my fans are surprised and excited about my applying my [signature style] to product design. People find the design quirky and fun, which was the intention of this collaborative effort.
LSA: Apart from the new bottles, you’re known for your outdoor murals and artworks. What inspires you, and what do you hope to achieve with your art?
EZ: I draw my inspiration from everything, be it my interactions and everyday experiences. My work is intended to be thought-provoking, rather than send a particular message. I like that people raise questions when exploring my artworks — there is no one meaning that they need to understand. My goal is to provoke an emotional dialogue between viewer and artwork; to [create] a response which leaves a mark on the person’s memory.
LSA: What is the creative process like, whenever you embark on a new artwork?
EZ: There is always a vision, an idea of what it is and where I want it to go, although it rarely goes according to plan. The process is a creative journey that you have to trust. I try to keep the work true to universal concepts without excluding certain groups. We are all individuals, and I like the idea of people taking away something different based on their own experience.
LSA: Looking back on your journey as an artist, how do you find you’ve grown over the years?
EZ: I feel like I started my art career very young, and so progress has been very gradual. I never really felt a spontaneous “acceptance” from people towards my art — it was a series of small steps, growing my audience and improving my work. I find that criticism is just as valuable a commentary as a compliment — perhaps even more so, as it gives us the opportunity to reflect and improve. One can’t be too sensitive to people’s opinions. The danger is that you will become immersed in that negative thought, and discourage yourself.
LSA: What inspires you? Are there any particular artists or works that you look to as a muse?
EZ: My taste preferences and inspiration change on a daily basis; there is no single artwork that I can point out as my main inspiration. I believe that keeping a variety of interests is very important to the creative process.
LSA: What drives you to keep doing what you do?
EZ: Passion. There is no one to answer to, so being productive and motivated is my own responsibility. It’s important to be excited about what’s going on in one’s career. I see every obstacle as an opportunity to learn and grow.
LSA: What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
EZ: Practice comes first. As long as you don’t stop, you will always be learning and improving. The questions and answers come along the way. You can’t expect to have them all before you start.