from the Cambodia Daily, May 3-4, 2005

Students' Creations Reconcile Classic And Contemporary Ideas About Art

By Soojung Chang and Chhim Sopheark


Reyum graduate Hout Vannak's painting "18 Monkey Commanders Fight Wiyopaek To Free Preah Ream and Preah Leak"


Reyum Art School graduate Yok Chivalry dreams of creating a Cambodian cartoon television series.

"I want to be a well-known painter, a well-known cartoon artist" said the 19-year-old. "In Cambodia, we do not yet have cartoons [on television]."

On Tuesday, Yok Chivalry and 13 other young men lined up to receive certificates of graduation from the school, which is part of the Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture. They are the first students to complete four levels of intense study at the school, which offers free half-day art sessions five times a week to students—many from s poor families—who show talent and commitment.

The ceremony, held at the Reyurn art gallery, also marked the opening of an exhibition of their J work The art now on display fleets the program's curriculum, I which includes lessons in both traditional and modem painting.

Some of the traditional works depict characters from the Rearnker—the Khmer version of the Indian epic tale Ramayana—in bright costumes painted in water-color with intricate webs of fine brush work that took months to complete.

In contrast several large and distinctly modern pieces reflect students' unique windows into undersea life, a topic recently assigned in class, said Lim Vanchan, the school's managing director.

He said that the school tries to expose the students to new ideas and a variety of artistic styles, to cultivate their creativity.

Not all of the graduates, ranging in age from 17 to 22, have jobs yet and some have not even graduated from public high schools. But like Yok Chivalry, they seem hopeful about the future, as they have already come a long way.

About five years ago, the school did not exist and a few of the graduates were part of a disorderly group of neighborhood children who were showing up at Reyum's events.

Some of the children were shoe shiners or even thieves, said Ly Daravuth, director of the institute, but "we became attached to them." The Reyum staff rented an apartment next door to their gallery and started inviting the kids to gather mere.

"The thing is, they were so wild," Ly Daravuth said The landlord kicked them out and the staff found a new location for the children—the school's current building, located in a small alleyway across from the Royal University of Fine Arts' South Campus.

Now the school has about 120 students. In addition to classes, the school has organized field trips, and obtained commissions for students at the Municipal Orphanage, the National Archives and the soon-to-be-opened US Embassy building.



Reyum student Hong Srey Sante-pheap, 19, works on a painting.

Lim Vanchan is hoping to find more paid commissions and other projects for graduates to work on as a group. He and Van Sovanny, general manager of the institute, are planning a workshop to further the students' artistic development and to help them in their career aspirations.

"They need money to live. Being an artist is difficult in Cambodia," Lim Vanchan said.

"The majority of artists are not really rich men," Yok Chivalry said, after outlining his plan to enroll in an associate degree program in banking at a local university next year, after he finishes high school His father and his siblings all work in banks, but he said that his parents encourage him in his artwork.

"When I can support them myself, I can paint Then it is easy to be a well-known artist" he said with confidence.