Watercolor paintings by Chhum Channa

Opening reception, July 22, 2008



In the following text, the artist reflects on his paintings and the steady loss of traditional wooden houses in Cambodia:

"When I walked through the different villages in Battambang, I would often go to see the old houses of the villagers. I love the shapes of the houses, and because I know how to draw I began sketching the houses and their surroundings, visiting each one individually for a period several months.

"Traditionally houses were made from wood and bamboo, and the roofs were covered with palm leaves or tile. They were built in styles such as the roong daul house [which is long with a V-shaped roof running lengthwise], the bet house [which is not quite at long as roong dual house, and has no crossbeams supporting the roof], and the kantaing house [which is a simple long hall, with a V-shaped roof]. These houses were always built up high, off the ground on columns. The house itself is mostly used to sleep in at night and the space below the house is where most of the daily activities would take place. This space is where the family members would do their housework, sit and relax, eat meals together, and where they would house their cattle. It also offered protection from the sun, wind and rain.

"Recently, the life-styles of Cambodians have changed, changing the shapes of the houses along with it. Now the shapes are more modern and made of concrete, which is more affordable to people than wood, which is expensive and requires more maintenance. Even people who still own traditional wooden houses will often replace parts of the wooden structure with concrete.

"This makes me think about all the traditional Khmer houses that are beginning to disappear and the future generations of Cambodians who will not have the chance to see them. So even though these paintings are pieces of art and not photographs, they can still be a record of these houses, and a stored memory of the past for the future."

About the artist
Chhum Channa was born in 1986 on the Khmer-Thai border. He studied at Phare Ponleu Silapak in Battambang from 2000-2005 and is now beginning his career as an emerging artist. 

With the support of:
The Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation – The Rockefeller Foundation -
The Prince Claus Fund