Artist narrative

Background to the contemporary stone carving project

Over the past year, young Cambodian artists (all graduates from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh) have been learning about the development of stone, from different ancient traditions through to our contemporary world. After ten months of working with stone the artists then taught the same course to sculpture students at RUFA, passing on their newly acquired knowledge to a younger generation of artists.

In modern day Cambodia we can admire the technical ability of the stone carvers that replicate images from that magnificent bygone era, however this exhibition showcases the new beginning of a contemporary era of stone carvings, reflecting modern day Cambodia.

The project was implemented and taught by British artist Sasha Constable and made possible through the support of FOKCI - Friends of Khmer Culture. A percentage of sales from the stone carvings by RUFA students will go towards purchasing equipment and materials for the sculpture department.

Background of the Royal University of Fine Arts

The School of Fine Arts traces back its origins to the Ecoles des Arts Cambodgiens, founded in Phnom Penh by the Cambodian Royal Family in 1918 under the directorship of George Groslier. RUFA originally incorporated faculties of traditional drawing, sculptural modelling, bronze casting, silversmithing, furniture making and weaving and was principally a workshop assigned to the Royal family for producing copies of traditional Khmer art, mostly from the extensive Angkorian temple complexes.

In the late 1940's a section of so-called 'Modern Painting' (representational painting) was founded. By the late 1950's representational drawing, painting and sculpture formed a substantial portion of the curriculum of the school, while traditional painting, mask making, silversmithing and weaving continued to be taught in individual sections.

In 1965 this institution was merged with the national theatre school to form the Royal University of Fine Arts. Thereafter its programme embraced archaeology, architecture and urban planning and design. Prior to 1975 all of the University's teaching took place on the original campus in the centre of the city. In 1975 all teaching ceased for five years. It reopened in 1980 as the School of Fine Arts. University status was restored in 1989 and the suffix 'Royal' was once more added.

'Art is the soul of a country' (quote Preoung Chhieng - Vice Dean at RUFA).

RUFA currently has five faculties. Archaeology, Architecture and Urbanism and Plastic Arts can be found behind the museum on Street 178 and Street 19, while Choreographic Arts and Music are several miles away from the city. The faculty of Fine Art still echoes its founding principles, instructing students in traditional Khmer artistic styles, techniques, history and also introduces them to modern western styles and techniques. Progress on the latter element is greatly hampered by an almost complete lack of resources.

Artist bio
OU Vanndy

Ou Vanndy graduated from RUFA in 2005 with a degree in Sculpture. He went on to do a teacher training course at the National Institute of Education (NIE) and has been teaching drawing at NIE for the past 3 years.

'Water is Life'

This stone carving signifies the link between women, water and life. Water is necessary for life; women give birth to new life.

'The Dance'

Depicting the unity of man and woman through the beautiful hand movements learnt through traditional Cambodian dance.

KEO Neathmony

Mony graduated from RUFA in 2004, majoring in Interior Design. He is now a government official in the anti-corruption unit.


Although Jayavarman VII is the most famous king in Cambodian history, when all the people were not united the country fell.

KIM Samdy

Samdy graduated from RUFA in 2006 with a degree in Interior Design. He now teaches at the Royal University of Fine Arts secondary school.


This carving is about the good side of human nature. In our modern world we must listen carefully to the goodness inside us and combat the negative side of life.


Dolphins are intelligent creatures which share similar emotions to human beings. This sculpture is about sensing these emotions.


This is about freedom of speech. A functional piece of furniture that combines materials signifying different parts of society linked together to create freedom.

'Endless smile'

Although the Angkorian apsaras were hidden by the jungle for centuries with no one taking care of them, they still continued to smile.

'Mother of the World'

Women are the givers of new life, mothers of the world. Her hand cups her pregnant belly, anticipating a new birth.

OUK Chimvichet

Vichet completed a degree in sculpture from RUFA, graduating in 2006. He is currently teaching model making in the faculty of architecture at RUFA.


This relief carving is about people's sexual preference. Why are some people gay and some people not?

'Risk Taker'

Is about the concept of beauty. Some people will risk their health through skin whitening products or plastic surgery to (in their mind) become more beautiful.


This is about the sculptures that remain in Angkor and how their brilliance attracts tourism and conservationists to protect our Cambodian heritage.


Some people destroy or loot Angkorian sculptures, they do not understand the importance of our heritage and just think about short term personal benefit.

'River Dolphin'

There is an old Khmer story that the river dolphin was born from human. This dolphin feeds from its mother's milk and is now a big tourist attraction in Kratie province.

'A Drop of Life'

This is about the happiness that everyone should have the right to through a close family that supports each other with respect and love.


Based on the Bayon Temple, our ancient ancestors smile with pride as more and more tourists come to visit the powerful legacy of Angkor. We live in the Kingdom of Wonder.


Graduating from the sculpture department at RUFA in 2006, Chhea Bunna currently teaches at the Hun Sen Ta Kmao High School and the Cambodian Mekong University where he instructs in drawing and water colour painting.

'Gentle Mother'

Bunna's first stone sculpture learning the techniques of carving. A mother nurtures her child.


Depicting the heavens, earth and hell, parts connected by the broken pillar.

'Save I'

This is about growth and continuity and the importance of passing on knowledge from one generation to the next.

'Save II'

A parent and child symbolizing the need for us to protect our young as well as our surrounding environment.


Symbolizes two people who make a whole but are separate, the connection between man and woman.


Symbolizes a monk encompassing the five feelings but it also includes a sixth feeling to connect our being.

'The Thinker'

An interpretation of Rodin's sculpture titled The Thinker. The piercing hole becomes as important as the solid sculpture and the textural contrast.

Sculpture students at RUFA

HOUT Chansambath

'Smiling with the Right to Freedom and Independence'

The simplified image of a dove protects people from oppression and exploitation. The two sides of the face and the big smile signify independence and freedom.

MEAS Sovannara


The shape of the carving is reminiscent of a Naga which is powerful and protects us, it calms us like water. The clasping hands signify strength and unity.

BUN Sopanha

'Cycle of Life'

From the front we see the baby being born and the other side is the old man. From the top the carving has the appearance of a skull. The Cycle of Life.

ROEUN Phyrom

'Non Frontier'

No small tree can grow under the bigger tree. When there is a famous artist, it is difficult to surpass them; sometimes you need to break away on your own individual path.

OUCH Sambath


Volleyball is a much loved sport in Cambodia. Now it is played at an international level and has become popular and empowered sportsmen with disabilities.



There are two kinds of partners, the first leads us on the right path, helping us improve ourselves, the second leads us down the wrong path introducing us to drugs and other evils.

MOUN Kosal

'Road Safety'

We must wear helmets when we are traveling on our motorbikes if we wish to be safe. In the event of an accident, helmets protect our life.

YONG Chankroeusna

'Compassion, Pity, Joy and Sincerity'

These are four attributes that are part of Buddhist faith. If people live and understand these they will be better people and enjoy a more fulfilling life.

Artists from Royal University of Fine Arts, Phnom Penh
08 June - 23 September 2010

Hôtel de la Paix > Arts Lounge > In-Form