The Reamker

Painted by Chet Chan

Opening reception, September 5, 2002




Reyum is pleased to announce the opening of an exhibition and the publishing of a new book which consider traditional Khmer painting and the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Ramayana. This project began because we felt that forms of traditional painting were not being passed down to the younger generations while stories such as the Reamker, which once were central to the canon of traditional painting, were no longer being remembered.

With support from the Kasumisou Foundation, Reyum commissioned the painter Chet Chan (a painter trained at the Royal University of Fine Arts in the early 1960s) to produce a set of paintings illustrating more than sixty of the characters found in the Reamker. These small tempera on paper paintings illuminate the way in which major characters of the Reamker have been represented in what is called traditional Khmer painting. Chet Chan’s character paintings will be on display at Reyum from September 5th through late November 2002. We will also be displaying his huge scene of a heavenly palace rendered in tempera and gold leaf on canvas as well as smaller tempera and gold leaf paintings on silk showing various scenes of love and fighting from the Reamker.

An accompanying book, published on the occasion of this exhibition, introduces readers to the Reamker by offering a version of the story written by the Palace Minister Thiounn in 1903 as the mural paintings of the Reamker, still on view today in the Royal Palace, were being painted. The character paintings are reproduced in the book and and the ways in which characters of the Reamker can be identified and differentiated are discussed. A final section of the book presents a photo essay detailing the process of painting followed by Chet Chan as he renders scenes from the Reamker in tempera and gold-leaf on silk. The book is hardcover (156 pages) with more than 150 color illustrations and a bilingual text in Khmer and English.

In conjunction with the exhibition and publication, Dr. Son Soubert, professor of art history in the Department of Archaeology (Royal University of Fine Arts), will give a lecture entitled “Meanings of the Reamker”. The lecture will take place in Khmer at 5:30 pm on September 10th and in English at 5:30 pm on September 11th at Reyum. On September 22, Dr. Ang Choulean, professor of archaeology in the Department of Archaeology (Royal University of Fine Arts) will speak on "The Reamker in Everyday Life". The lectures are free and open to the public.

This exhibition and its accompanying book were funded by a generous donation from the Kasumisou Foundation.