GEORGE TOWN: Dr Caryn Koh had no clue she was going to be a familiar face someday until an artist rendered a soulful image of her, in a mural reaching five-storeys high into the sky in Penang.
When told her face would be seen by thousands of Penangites and out-of-towners as they converged in Magazine Road from the Penang Bridge, she said humbly enough, “Oh really?”
The image of the 29-year-old arts major from Petaling Jaya, was drawn by Canadian street-artist Emmanuel Jarus on the facade of the 1st Avenue Mall here over the weekend.
Spanning some 24-feet wide, it is learnt Jarus took nearly five days to complete the impressive work of art.
In an interview with FMT, Dr Koh, a trained medical doctor-turned-artist, said it was an honour to be memorialised by a freestyle artist like Jarus.
“I have been following his work. I am so honoured to be his subject.” she said.
Dr Koh she was first introduced to Jarus through Penang-based art coordinator Tan Chor Whye, when they were down in Kuala Lumpur to help fellow street-artist Ernest Zacharevic on a mural he was working on.
Explaining how the mural in Penang came about, Dr Koh, said it was based on a candid shot Jarus took of her staring in amazement at the interiors of a cave at Batu Caves, Selangor.
“I was so mesmerised by the caves and the scenery at the time. Jarus was taking photos but I did not know he took my picture.
“I was wearing shorts at the time and luckily I brought a pair of tie-dye Aladdin pants (harem pants) as part of the dress code to visit the caves.
“Only when they (Jarus and Zacharevic) returned to Penang, was I told actually, ‘I am going to paint you.’ And I was like ‘oh, okay?’
“I did not object because I was honoured to be his (Jarus) subject. But I never knew it was going to be this big,” Dr Koh exclaimed.
She is currently part of an arts collective with four others called Titik Merah, with a gallery at Publika, Solaris Dutamas in KL.
Dr Koh herself, an accomplished artist, is well known for her #sekolahseries illustrations, of a schoolgirl sketched in simple lines in pen and contrasting scratches of colour pencil, in her national school uniform, that symbolise the limitations set on oneself.
Speaking about her transition from doctor to artist, Dr Koh said she pursued medicine at her parent’s urging although her lifelong dream was to be an artist.
She earned her medical degree in IMU, and trained at hospitals in Wigan, England.
“After returning home, I felt like medicine was not something I wanted to do.
“My passion lay in art, it was natural, and I had always wanted to do it. There was a drive,” she said.
Dr Koh said her parents were thankfully supportive of her work and excited to find her image now displayed for all to see on a building in Penang.
When asked if she would come to Penang to see first-hand the mural with her image, Dr Koh said: “Maybe end of December or early next year!”