Perhaps most in the Kingdom know of the folktale called Moni Mekhala which tells the origin of thunderstorms. Two young art students, however, have refreshed the story by bringing it to life through their digital design skills.
Uddam Pen and Socheata Chhea, working under the names Apsvra and Penkuro, have collaborated on an exhibition called Thunder and Rain or The Tale of the Storm Goddess, which illustrates the tale through digital works of art.
Both self-trained capital artists believe that the Kingdom’s arts community has the power to strengthen national identity while simultaneously updating traditional forms.
Pen, 22, an architectural engineering student and recent graduate of Zaman University, draws and paints semi-realistic human subjects with influences from Japanese anime art. He has explored various methods but remains steadfast in his identity as a Cambodian creator.
Chhea , 18, a recent high school graduate, usually works with pencil, ink, and Photoshop. Her work shows figurative elements and blends digital and traditional techniques.
This exhibition is the second that the two artists have collaborated in. They aim to continue blending traditional Khmer patterns with their signature modern art twists.
“The unique point of this art exhibition is all about digital methods. Its a bit different from our first exhibition,” Pen says of the event that was weeks in the making."
Chhea says the exhibition allowed them to interpret the original folktale in a new way, and develop the characters that were already established.
“We chose this theme because the main character, Moni Mekhala, is a very cool character. She’s got extremely awesome superpowers. She can fly, create, and control lightning. She’s a face that’s found in few Asian cultures ... it’s always a good feeling to see a character in the media that identifies with your race, country and culture,” Chhea says.
In the folktale, lightning goddess Moni Mekhala won a crystal ball after a challenge with Ream Eyso. Bolts are produced by her crystal ball and thunder by Eyso’s axe.
“I want to engage with Cambodian youth. I think Cambodian youth are changing their mindsets and beginning to exchange ideas,” Pen says, adding that art is deeply rooted in Western culture, but it is still growing in the Kingdom.
“There is always a lack of Asian or Cambodian representation in popular media. I want to see more of it. Cambodia seems to have always been known as the Khmer Rouge country. It’s not a very great identity,” Chhea said.
Since premiering last Sunday, the exhibition is open to the public for one month. Thunder and Rain by Apsvra and Penkuro is being presented at the Bong The Gallery on street 240.