Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Happy painter’ blames shop closure on copycats




‘Happy painter’ blames shop closure on copycats

Artist Stephane Delapree is best-known for his cartoonish depictions of Cambodian life
Artist Stephane Delapree is best-known for his cartoonish depictions of Cambodian life. Pha Lina

‘Happy painter’ blames shop closure on copycats

Self-dubbed “happy painter” Stephane Delapree has blamed copycat artists for his decision to close his Phnom Penh shop at the end of the year.

The French-born Canadian artist is known for his distinctive bright, cartoonish style featuring scenes of everyday life in Cambodia: whole families on motos, women in kramas at the market, columns of monks with matching umbrellas. All the characters – even the animals – have smiley faces.

The 57-year-old has exhibited in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, India, Malaysia and Singapore and has shops in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh International Airport and Sisowath Quay selling paintings and merchandise including T-shirts, coffee mugs and figurines.

But yesterday, after his new exhibition opened at the InterContinental Phnom Penh hotel on Thursday, Delapree said sales have been so slow at his galleries in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh that he has decided to shutter the shop on Sisowath Quay. He blamed pirated copies for the shortfall.

“You can find copycats of my work everywhere now for just a few dollars; in souvenir stores, in Khmer galleries and in the markets,” he said.

“I even have some in front of my gallery in Siem Reap, people who sell copies of my work.”

His latest exhibition, Flowers Power, which features a series of flower-themed still lifes, was created as an attempt to break free of the unstable Cambodian art market and reach an international audience by creating more “universal” images, he said.

“Cambodia is kind of exotic but if I only have Cambodian scenes … Perhaps I will end up going to the wall.”

Delapree has lived in Cambodia since 1994 when he found work here helping to produce pamphlets and booklets for big international NGOs such as Unicef, UNDP and the World Food Programme.

He soon began exhibiting his “happy painting” and it proved popular among international visitors. He sold out all the works at his first two exhibitions at the Cambodiana Hotel.

Things seemed to be going well until the political ructions in 1997 when military units loyal to the Cambodian People’s Party routed opposition forces and tanks rolled through the streets. The tourists stopped coming and Delapree’s paintings stopped selling. “I lost everything,” he said.

Over time the tourists returned but the cycle always remained boom and bust.

Delapree was recently commissioned to create paintings for a big new hospital in Ho Chi Minh City and a chapel in a French chateau.

He said he would continue to paint his iconic scenes of everyday Cambodian life.

“But I will also try to find opportunities outside of Cambodia,” he said.

Flowers Power is on at the InterContinental Phnom Penh’s Insider Gallery (296, Boulevard Mao Tse Toung) until November 30.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Cintri strike ends, workers’ contracts to be terminated

    CINTRI (Cambodia) Ltd rubbish collectors who have been on strike for the past 13 days agreed to return to work starting Wednesday evening after the company agreed to terminate their contracts at the end of January next year and provide seniority payments and other benefits to