Just because street art has Western roots doesn’t mean that artists from Asia or elsewhere need to play by the same rules. Leonard Siaw Quan Cheng is a mural artist from Malaysia dedicated to celebrating local communities. His massive murals reflect the diverse lives of those around his hometown, and it’s done in a classic fine art style. Farmers, indigenous peoples, and street food vendors take center stage in his works. Their daily lives are captured and affectionately memorialized for all the world to see.
街头艺术起源于上世纪八十年代的西方国家，其颠覆传统、寻求改变的理念，使它的形式一直无法被人们定义。而当代东方艺术家更以多种另辟蹊径的方式呈现这门艺术。马来西亚壁画艺术家萧全成（Leonard Siaw Quan Cheng）擅长将创作与社区紧紧地联系在一起，他的大型壁画作品以一袭经典的油画风格著称，徜徉在家乡的风土人情。从原住民、农耕者到街头摊贩，他把一个个平凡人的生活群像展示给全世界的观众。
Although he never painted graffiti, his inspiration for street art comes from similarly mischievous roots. As a kid, his dad first taught him to draw by sketching on a whiteboard with a marker, and as Cheng got older, he continued to direct his creativity towards walls and other objects not normally meant for art. “I used to draw on the classroom blackboard, in textbooks, on tables. I kept getting punished for it but never stopped because I really enjoyed it,” he laughs.
As an adult, he became a full-time graphic designer, which brought financial stability but not creative satisfaction. After some self-reflection, those glowing memories of a playful childhood inspired him to revisit drawing on walls again, and it transformed his career entirely.
His style now is full of earthy colors with subtle bursts of brighter notes that make his pieces pop from their surrounding environment. He has stuck with brushes and rollers, eschewing spray paint entirely, giving his murals a more traditional feel, while impressionist strokes loan his characters more energy and texture.
Cheng is a Chinese-Malaysian artist but his paintings depict people from many different walks of life. “My hometown state of Sarawak has 30 different ethnic groups and is so rich with diversity,” he gushes. “Honestly, I’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s still so much more to learn—and I grew up here.”
One piece that embodies that diversity is Cheng’s recent Last Ring Ladies mural, which depicts five Bi’emban indigenous women dressed in traditional garbs, with their blazing red costumes floating on a sea of blue. Their village was deluged with water as the result of a dam project and they were relocated to another area outside their ancestral homeland. The mural was done in collaboration with a documentary of the same name, which details their story and disappearing culture.
“I try to capture the locals’ hearts by painting people who look like them,” Cheng offers. “Apart from the character‘s physical appearance, their background also plays an important part in my artwork. I want to tell a story, to motivate and to inspire.” In Joy Of The Harvest, a mural painted on a towering container installed in the middle of a paddy field, he depicts the images of those very same rice farmers as an homage to their hard work.
萧全成解释说：“我希望将不同地区人们特有的外貌特征或表情描绘出来，以表达他们内心的感受。除了外表，壁画背景也十分重要，这些共同构成作品的故事，去激励和启发更多的人。”《Joy Of The Harvest》（收获的喜悦）则是一幅创作于田间巨型储物仓上的壁画，萧全成通过壁画来致敬辛勤劳作的人民。
Cheng often portrays the overlooked and underprivileged as stories that deserve preservation. In Pulau Penang, he painted a portrait of the Siamese Sisters, two well-known Thai immigrants who made a living hawking curry noodles. “They worked seven days a week for seventy years; the first bowl of curry noodles they served cost five cents,” he says. “All in all, I’m extremely thankful for the love and support that locals show me when painting a mural. And the feeling of finally finishing a mural after all that hard work and looking at the end result is priceless.”
大多时候，萧全成所描绘的都是一些常被人们忽视的弱势群体，这些人生往往有着丰富的故事，值得用艺术记录下来。在槟城，他画了“暹罗姐妹”的肖像，姐妹俩是泰国移民，以卖咖喱面为生，在当地很出名。他说：“她们每周工作 7 天，这样一直坚持了 70 年。还记得她们最早卖的第一碗咖喱面只要 5 美分！”，他接着说道：“总而言之，我非常感谢很多人对我艺术的支持和厚爱，尤其当地那些平民百姓。现在，每当我到一个地方完成创作，都会感慨万分，即便画上人物承载着太多太多。”