Lithuanian 'Banksy' finds admirers in anti-graffiti Singapore

A Lithuanian artist who angered Malaysian officials with a street mural depicting a knife-wielding Lego robber has found unlikely admirers across the border in graffiti-averse Singapore for his works on a softer theme.

Ernest Zacharevic, who has been likened to British graffiti artist Banksy, has seen photos of his murals depicting children playing go viral on Facebook as Singaporeans unused to seeing art on outdoor walls expressed their approval.

Zacharevic received permission from the owners of private buildings in Singapore to paint the child-themed murals in the city's picturesque Muslim trading and dining quarter, thereby avoiding a possible jail term for vandalism.

"It's been a very interesting experience," the 27-year-old Zacharevic told AFP by telephone.

"They do appreciate it. The moment I get out my tools, people approach me and they ask me what I'm doing," said the artist, who has a studio in Malaysia's Penang state.

Zacharevic angered Malaysian officials last week after he drew a mural on a wall in the southern city of Johor Baru depicting a woman drawn in the style of a Lego toy walking towards a street corner, where a black-clad, knife-wielding robber waited to pounce.

City officials quickly painted over the mural, an apparent commentary on the city's reputation for crime, which drew on the image of a Legoland theme park which opened nearby last year.

Ordinary Malaysians however lauded the work as it tapped into concerns about the country's crime problem, with photographs of it shared virally on Facebook and cut-out versions popping up across the country.

Vandalism in Singapore is punishable by up to three years in jail or a fine of up to Sg$2,000 ($1,600). Male offenders can also face caning.

In 2010 a Swiss man was jailed and caned for spray painting the signatures of infamous European train vandals on a Singapore metro train.

Zacharevic said there was no overall theme to his murals in Singapore, which also includes bollards painted to depict the yellow-colored "minion" characters from the animated film "Despicable Me".

"I do not carry out any straightforward messages with my art ... I try to provoke people to try to find their own meanings," he said.