Search form

Login - Register | FOLLOW US ON

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Metal medium gives copper artist Sovann Vibol an edge in art market

Sovann Vibol's intricate copper sculptures sometimes take a week to complete. Scott rotzoll
Sovann Vibol's intricate copper sculptures sometimes take a week to complete. Scott Rotzoll

Metal medium gives copper artist Sovann Vibol an edge in art market

In a shelf in Sovann Vibol’s wooden-frame studio, a box of incense rests next to an old radio and an image of the Buddha, carved into copper. The 33-year-old artist sits on the floor below with his eyes fixed on a second – yet incomplete – likeness in his hands.

“My favourite copper sculpture is the Buddhist statue because it is hard to make. I’ve spent three days cutting it,” he said. “I don’t think anyone else can make this on copper.”

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Copper artist Sovann Vibol at work. scott rotzoll

In fact, Vibol doesn’t think there are many other copper artists in Phnom Penh. He came to the medium with a variety of experiences: as a grocery clerk at Lucky Supermarket, and later as a painter.

He could have continued in this traditional vein, pitting his own canvases for sale against those of other painters along Phnom Penh’s Art Street – many of them with an arts education.

But Vibol was most interested in experimenting with something new, and he had read about copper-sketching in books.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A completed sculpture. scott rotzoll

“I was interested in working with a different style of sculpture,” he said. “When I visited museums, exhibitions and ancient sites, I saw a lot of things made from stone and paper – but no copper at all.”

Since 2014, Vibol has sold about 100 pieces of his work, mostly out of a friend’s shop, Insolite, on Street 178. He can sell larger pieces for about $100 (the highest he’s fetched is $450), and he’s sold his work in Cambodia, France, Australia and the US.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A preliminary sketch. scott rotzoll

In addition to Buddha statues, he carves the usual symbols – ancient flowers, Angkor and Bayon styles, and lucky animals like elephants – into copper plates. He wants them to appeal to an international audience.
“What I hope the most is that foreigners buy my products,” he said.

“Cambodians like my sculptures, but they sometimes cannot afford the cost.” Vibol’s materials are expensive, and his process is somewhat demanding.

Beginning with a blank copper plate, he first draws different styles on a piece of paper, uses an iron nail to lay the design into the copper, and then begins carving lines into the metal with a coping saw.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Vibol's tools. scott rotzoll

“I have to use a really soft hand to follow the shape of the holes,” he explained. “It takes many steps.”

“When I have a good feeling, my work is smoother. I sometimes spend a week finishing a sculpture. But I enjoy it because I feel that my work is alive – the design itself communicates with me like a spirit.”

Vibol hopes to eventually have his own exhibition and to meet other artists and sponsors. He would like to share his work, as well as the technique of copper sketching.

“Not many people know about this achievement,” he said.

0

Comments

Please, login or register to post a comment

Latest Video

First They Killed My Father author Loung Ung on trusting Angelina Jolie to tell a story for all Cambodians

The story of Loung Ung and her family’s suffering under the Khmer Rouge became known around the world with the success of her autobiographical book, First They Killed My Father.

Setting up a drone for flight. Photo supplied

How Cambodia's first drone company is helping farmers

SM Waypoint claims its unmanned aerial vehicles can help local farm and plantation owners increase their yields.

New street food dish shakes things up at Russian Market

Though the bustling food stalls that emerge after dark next to Russian Market can seem intimidating to tourists at first glance, there are street food treats to be enjoyed by all.