AN exhibition of stone sculptures that has been on display at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh for the past week is moving to Siem Reap, where it will be shown at Hotel de la Paix from June 8 to August 8.
Kim Samdy, a teacher at the university, said the exhibition was organised with the aim of demonstrating the beauty and value of stone carvings, an art form that he said is declining in popularity. “Very few students register for the stone-carving courses at the university’s sculpture department because they think they won’t be able to find jobs after they graduate,” he said. “Students think it is useless to study the subject.”
The exhibition features 30 sculptures carved by the university’s students, teachers and alumni, and Kim Samdy said the event provided the opportunity for these groups to meet one another.
“The exhibition is like a joining of hands between the teachers and students, and between alumni and students,” he said.
Before the exhibition, many of the participating artists had taken part in a course on the development of the art of stone sculpture through history, taught by British artist Sasha Constable at the university. The programme was supported by Friends of Khmer Culture, a US-based group that supports Khmer arts and cultural organisations.
Most carvings in the exhibition represent a break from the past. Rather than focusing on traditional themes such as apsara dancers, historical kings or Buddha images, the artists have attempted to create modern images infused with symbolic meaning.
“We focus on meaning in these sculptures. If we look at these sculptures from the front, we see one thing, but if we look from the back side, we will see another thing,” said Kim Samdy, who is showing five of his own sculptures in the exhibition.
He also explained some of the challenges involved with sculpting stone.
“The sculptors have to be careful because stone is hard to break, but when it’s broken, it’s not repairable,” he said. “When we carve, we have to do it hard and carefully. But before we can even start working, we have to think first of what kind of statue we want to shape.”
“Another difficulty is that stone is heavy, so we always need help moving it from one place to another,” he added.
Kim Samdy said he hopes the exhibition will inspire more people to study the art of stone carving. “I hope the sculptures will prompt people to think about what they might mean and give them some new ideas,” he said.
All artworks in the exhibition are for sale at prices ranging from US$200 to over $2,000, with a portion of the proceeds going to support the sculpture department at the Royal University of Fine Arts.