State of the arts: Cambodia’s street scene going from strength to strength

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn and German Ambassador Christian Berger unveil a mural in 2019. SUPPLIED

Street art in Cambodia continues to gain recognition with the latest mural on the wall of the German Embassy in Phnom Penh among the newest additions to the capital’s artistic landscape.

Commissioned to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven and created by renowned Kingdom-based artist Chifumi – founder of the Cambodian Urban Art Festival – the legendary German classical composer is portrayed alongside “Golden Age” singer Ros Sereysothea.

It is the second wall at the embassy to receive the street art treatment after German artist Danilo Halle and Cambodia’s Hour Soben worked together to create a unique mural on the embassy’s main gate in 2019.

“As part of the German Embassy’s ongoing mission of supporting, promoting and celebrating Cambodian and German culture, we are delighted to present the second of our embassy wall murals featuring musical legends Ros Sereysothea and Ludwig van Beethoven.

“In partnership with Gallery KB (KBach) and artist Chifumi, this follows the embassy’s first wall mural created in 2019 as part of an artist residency between Cambodian and German artists Hour Soben and Danilo Halle.

“We believe strongly in the benefits of creativity and the arts, and hope to continue to support such projects in the future,” said German Ambassador to Cambodia Christian Berger.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Portraits of Ludwig van Beethoven and Ros Sereysothea now also adorn the German Embassy. SUPPLIED

A sign of street art’s acceptance in the mainstream, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn and Ambassador Berger jointly unveiled the first mural on the embassy’s main gate to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The benefits of street art – in terms of society involvement, aesthetic beautification of a city and increased tourism – that have been seen worldwide are now increasingly visible on the Kingdom’s streets as demonstrated with the latest public artwork at the German Embassy.

And for Sereysothea to be now portrayed in a public mural is perhaps symbolic of a rebirth of a Cambodian artistic scene not witnessed since the heydays of the 1960s, says Tony Francis, the founder of Gallery KB.

“The renaissance we have been witnessing in Cambodia is down to a number of factors, including the ‘Kbach style’ championed by the collective of companies now rebranded as Gallery KB (KBach).

“Art residencies have played a vital role in the success and acceptance of the artworks, with established international artists collaborating with Cambodian artists to produce murals in the ‘KBach style’, which fuses the very best elements of the Kingdom’s rich artistic culture with international styles and influences.

“KBach has over the past four years created galleries, competitions, residencies, the [email protected] and numerous other projects including the Kingdom’s most ambitious arts and culture project soon to be launched at Royal Train Square – the exciting redevelopment of Phnom Penh’s iconic railway station – which is home to and under curation by Gallery KB,” Francis said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Stinkfish’s famous Kathmandu Girl mural. SUPPLIED

The roots of Cambodia’s blooming street art scene took hold more than a decade ago, when a group of international artists used a neglected corner of Phnom Penh as a vibrant canvas, with Stinkfish’s famous Kathmandu Girl mural stemming from this time.

With the world famous Seth adding a Cambodian element and local artists Lisa Mam and Peap Tarr brought to the mix, the embers were lit, before Chifumi and Theo Vallier helped evolve the “KBach style” and drive it forward with the Cambodian Urban Art Festival.

And Francis is confident that as the capital continues to develop apace, the Cambodian urban art scene is positioned for only increased growth and further global recognition.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A local artist paints one of her favourite characters this week. SUPPLIED

“Artists such as Colombia’s Stinkfish – a judge at this year’s KBach Arts Competition – Poland’s Sepe, Halle and a number of others have and will continue to visit and work with local Cambodian artists enabling more collaborations.

“The successful arrival of world class products in terms of art supplies via Dots MTN has also helped facilitate the interest and growth of the scene. The arrival of international creative brands and their ability to attract further world class artists bodes well for the future growth, quality and awareness of the Cambodian arts scene.

“This has led to a new generation of grassroots artists being inspired to express their creativity across the city. Supported by four years of increasing opportunities such as the KBach Arts Competition, now in partnership with Cellcard, a number of new Cambodian artists have emerged believing in the present opportunities available to become professional,” he said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia’s street art scene began taking off more than a decade ago. Post Staff

A situation demonstrated by the image bottom left of a young local artist this week creating a tribute to one of her favourite characters, a popular image with the new generation in the Kingdom.

The finale of the 2020-21 KBach Arts Competition will be held in July as part of the opening of Royal Train Square, with the winners in the three categories of canvas, street art and digital to be announced.