Artist narrative

Chan Dany is one of few emerging artists in Cambodia creating contemporary work that employs a flexible knowledge of kbach rachana, or Khmer decorative forms – an ancient code of organic shapes and patterns applied in different styles. The foundations are shapes derived from specific elements of local flora and fauna such as the bamboo shoot, lotus petal, boddhi leaf, the fish egg, buffalo tooth, fish tooth, and so on. The patterns created from these shapes define something as classically Khmer and can be found throughout the country as a continuum of ancient expressions in architecture, pottery, silk, silver, yet can also be seen appropriated in contemporary forms such as web design and appliqués for fashionable motorbikes.

For The Scale of Angkor, Chan brings attention to the detail of Khmer ornamentation by focusing on one shape – the fish egg (pong trey), or circle. The circle is especially symbolic in many Asian cultures, referencing the meditative mandala, the enlightened halo crowning the Buddha, and the cycle of life.

Chan’s arduous and delicate practice requires a repetition and patience reminiscent of traditional master-artisan methods of production, such as silk weaving. From a distance Chan’s collages even resembles tapestry work, but upon closer viewing his technique is revealed: thousands of carefully cut colored-pencil shavings are applied deliberately to give an illusion of subtle volume. In Chan’s collages, the circle is enlivened in different kbach styles including Kbach Angkor, which replicates the most pervasive style found at the temple Angkor Wat, Kbach Phni Tes which is said to resemble the acanthus of Western ornamentation, or the lotus-inspired Kbach Daw Chan.

DY Proeung
It is not until you visit the Angkor Park and set eyes on the Angkorian Temples and surrounding environment that you can actually comprehend the magnitude of the engineering and architectural achievements from the Angkor Empire. It is the sheer scale of Angkor that is truly awe inspiring.
Artist and master craftsman, DY Proeung has created his own modern day interpretation of several of the Angkor Temples on a miniature scale, working as only an ardent master craftsman could; separate components are methodically carved or modeled and then caste from moulds to attain the highly complex sculptures. DY Proeung’s painstaking techniques are a modern day parallel to the enormity of the ancient Angkorian’s systematic production. On exhibit is DY Proeung’s version of Banteay Srey Temple. The scale has changed but the accomplishment is vast. Interestingly the buildings themselves at Banteay Srey Temple are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the norms of Angkorian construction.
DY Proeung says, “if we apply ourselves with an end goal in sight, it helps to follow the plans to achieve the finished result.”
Specializing in Angkorian sculpture and assisting with archaeological conservation efforts, DY Proeung has created other sculptural elements integral to a temple site and also to everyday life. The 8 guardian sculptures stand proud as protectors of the sacred site, warding off unwanted visitors.
It was at the height of the Angkorian Empire, between the 11th and 13th centuries that anthropomorphic style wares in the shape of birds, elephants and rabbits first appeared. DY Proeung’s ceramics are autonomous art objects reminiscent of Angkorian ceramics such as vessels to contain rice, water and spices.
DY Proeung’s patriotism shines through all of his work and the message is clear: We must protect, preserve and care for the Khmer cultural heritage.

Artist bio

Born in 1984 in Phnom Penh, CHAN Dany studied art at the Reyum Art School in Phnom Penh where he learnt traditional Khmer forms and techniques from master teachers. He graduated in 2005 and continued in Reyum’s two-year experimental Workshop program which concluded with the exhibition In Transition, Reyum Gallery (2007).

Chan Dany has been selected for numerous international exhibitions including New Asian Promises at Palais Project, Vienna (2009); Forever Until Now: Contemporary Art from Cambodia, 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong (2009); and Strategies from Within at Ke Centre of Contemporary Art, Shanghai (2008).

DY Proeung
DY Proeung is one of the few surviving old masters from the Khmer Rouge regime, when, between 1975 and 1979 up to ninety percent of Cambodian artists lost their lives. Now, at the age of seventy five, DY Proeung is an important figurehead in Cambodia’s cultural legacy.

Born in Phnom Penh, DY Proeung studied Architecture at the Royal University of Fine Arts where he graduated in 1960. He went on to work for the Angkor Conservation and École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO). It was during this time he drew architectural floor plans and elevations for Angkor Wat, Ta Keo, Bayon and Banteay Srey Temples.

During the Khmer Rouge regime he lived and worked as a farmer in Rolous where he still lives today. In 1979 he became the commune chief for Slor Khram commune and started to draw architectural plans for Banteay Srey Temple, in 1982 he retired as commune chief in order to concentrate on these drawings. Between 1988 and 1994 he painstakingly reproduced miniature sculptures of Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Keo and Banteay Srey Temples.

In 1993-94, during the UNTAC period (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia), a British soldier met DY Proeung and introduced his work to King Sihanouk which led to DY Proeung making a gift of his Angkor Wat miniature for the King’s birthday. At this time Dy Proeung was also given the Pisnuka award from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in recognition of his achievements.

For the past seventeen years Dy Proeung has focused on creating his intricate sculptures and also teaching a new generation of young Cambodian artists at his Sihanouk Reach Art and Craft School in Rolous. King Sihanouk personally requested DY Proeung to pass on his knowledge to the younger generation and also to create a book of his work.

"The Scale of Angkor"
CHAN Dany and DY Proeung
05 May - 05 July 2011

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