A powerful mural by French artist Chifumi Krohom, currently based in Cambodia, adorns a prominent corner of Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital in Siem Reap province, known as Jayavarman VII Hospital.

This vibrant artwork pays homage to the Kingdom’s heritage, echoing the intricate carvings and serene atmosphere of Ta Prohm Temple.

Onlookers are mesmerised by the ethereal depiction of a celestial Apsara dancer, a motif deeply embedded in Khmer culture. 

Krohom masterfully blends tradition with modernity, showcasing the dancer’s graceful form against a backdrop of abstract elements. 

“I usually take inspiration from the rich cultural background of Cambodia. Mainly on this project I chose to work on the Brahma, or Prohm god, specifically inspired from an Angkorian sculpture. The mural is located in Kantha Bopha hospital and on the way to the Angkor Wat site, so it was interesting to depict a story that echoes within the cultural context,” Krohom says.

He notes that this particular piece of art is the most extensive he has ever undertaken, requiring three continuous weeks of work without a day’s break. 

Fuelled by a desire to connect with the local community and enhance the children’s hospital identity, he has woven a stunning mural into the fabric of Siem Reap. This artwork transcends mere decoration, serving as a vibrant bridge between the Kingdom’s rich artistic heritage and growing contemporary art appreciation.

More than just beautifying the urban landscape, the mural acts as a cultural conduit, seamlessly connecting the past’s intricate carvings with today’s embrace of public art. It stands as a silent guardian, watching over the town’s ebb and flow, each brushstroke radiating the spirit of contemporary Cambodian expression.

Abstraction and tradition

Krohom, who organised the Cambodia Urban Art Festival, one of the first events dedicated to public art in Cambodia, says all symbols and ornamental elements draw inspiration from Khmer culture, particularly those found on landmarks and ancient temples in Siem Reap. 

“As the mural was specifically designed for a corner wall of Kantha Bopha hospital, I chose to depict a representation of the god Brahma, who is the creator of the world, according to ancient beliefs,” he says.

“I believe this resonates well, as Kantha Bopha is one of the largest maternity centres in the country. To maintain some abstraction in the design, I also integrated traditional kbach pnhi tes ornamentation, which represent the expansive and rich vegetation found around the temples,” he tells The Post. 

This mural is not the artist’s first offering to the noble cause of the Kantha Bopha Foundation of Cambodia, but rather a continuation of a meaningful dialogue between art and healing. 

His ongoing collaboration with the foundation’s charitable hospitals exemplifies the powerful connection between creativity and compassion.

A 2023 mural at the Kantha Bopha children’s hospital in Phnom Penh marked the start of a partnership with the organisation, which provides free, high-quality healthcare to children. 

Inspired by the dedication of the hospital’s team, the artist continues his work, expressing his gratitude for the chance to brighten the facility’s environment. He hopes his murals, each a tribute to the charitable hospitals’ life-changing work, bring joy and comfort to visitors. 

“I am lucky to have the opportunity to create murals for them, and I hope the visitors will enjoy how the art turned out,” Krohom says. 

He has become well-known for his signature style: large-scale murals scattered across the globe, weaving together myths, ethnic patterns and expressive hand gestures. 

French roots, Asian allure

After graduating from art school in France, Krohom relocated to Cambodia, captivated by the allure of Asian ancient heritage and mythology.

Fuelled by this passion, he has organised the Cambodia Urban Art Festival since 2015, empowering young local artists to find their creative voices.

His large-scale artworks adorn public spaces across Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, India, Madagascar, France, Denmark, Croatia, Italy and the US.

A devotee of Khmer culture, the muralist often spends his free time exploring pagodas and temples across the Kingdom. 

Moving from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap immersed the artist in the region’s rich history and unique cultural atmosphere. This influence shines through in his latest mural, a reinterpretation of motifs and sculptures that have captivated him.

Deeply respectful of ancient artistry, Krohom balances innovation with tradition in his work. His murals fuse a reverence for historical masterpieces with his own artistic vision.

While there are a handful of museums and galleries scattered across Cambodia, run by art lovers with true passion, access to art remains limited for a large portion of the population. 

“Public art allows everyone to appreciate art, even while commuting by motorbike or walking along the street. This is an excellent way to connect with art and cultural roots. I think artists here need more support for creating outside the box,” he says. 

Born on screen, his initial sketches digitally translate historical sculptures of deities into vibrant murals. Each design is carefully crafted to fit its designated wall, breathing new life into both the art and the space.

He says that on this latest project, the challenge was to integrate the angled corner creatively. Additionally, at 18m tall, it is currently the largest mural in Cambodia. Working on such a scale, high atop scaffolding, required significant effort.

Dedication and precision

“Maintaining accurate proportions and exact colour tones demands great skill. Fortunately, I have over 10 years of experience in this field,” Krohom says.

Several people offered assistance with the mural, particularly during the first stages. However, Krohom prefers to undertake his own artistic journey, overseeing the process from sketch to realisation. The hospital team provided invaluable support, constructing the scaffolding that allowed him to bring his vision into reality.

Mindful of the hospital’s environment and its visitors, he deliberately positioned the mural away from the public street to minimise disruption.

He emphasises the crucial role of cultural immersion in his work, highlighting how his travels influence his artistic style. He thrives on the challenge of merging diverse cultural influences into his unique creations. 

“For example, in Madagascar last year, I created a mural that combined a Khmer naga and an African myth. The result was amazing, as each culture could interpret the artwork through their own lens,” he says. 

Krohom’s mural adds a visual layer to the building, reflecting the hospital’s dedication to both healthcare and cultural enrichment.

The artist plans to stay in Siem Reap for several months preparing while projects in Nepal, France and the US await his brush.