The urban art movement is in its infancy in Cambodia, but as the country’s free-thinking way of expression catches on, a steadily rising number of street artists are pushing the scene. Here are a handful of trailblazers leading the way.
The renaissance in urban art kick-started five years ago, thanks to a chance meeting between Lisa and Peap. Cambodian-born-and-bred Mam had an innate interest in art, but it wasn’t until she met Cambodian New Zealander Tarr, a street artist with international experience, that she started pursuing it seriously. The couple started collaborating, with each piece inspired by Cambodia’s rich heritage, such as the hand gestures of apsara dancers and the five-headed dragon, Naga. Their work can be seen in a number of restaurants, bars and cafés throughout the capital.
Cambodian American Daniel Ou moved to Cambodia eight years ago, bringing with him an interest in art. The 21-year-old, who specialises in Khmer script, became so frustrated with the lack of materials in the country that he set up his own successful store, Burners, which sells high-quality, imported products.
Koy is a street artist who has been honing his skills for the past three years. Self-taught by trawling the internet and spending hours on YouTube, the 19-year-old was mesmerised by the diversity urban art offers. He spent his spare time practising, and met up with other street artists to learn new designs and push the scene. With heavy Khmer influences, he continues to experiment with style, dabbling with stencils, projector traces and free-hand work, keeping Khmer people at the heart of his art.
Making his first proper public outing at the inaugural Cambodia Urban Art Festival in 2015, 19-year-old Davido is inspired by Picasso and the cubism movement, creating animals from bold, colourful geometric shapes. He also perfected his skills using YouTube, and currently juggles his art with studying.
Relocating to Cambodia from Marseilles, France, in 2007, Vallier made it his focus to foster the burgeoning Cambodian street art movement. Working with youngsters to develop a scene and teaching them techniques and styles, he teamed up with fellow French artist Chifumi and a few others to launch the annual Cambodia Urban Art Festival in April 2015. This boasts a series of urban-inspired events, from graffiti tours to hip-hop evenings, as well as offering interested youngsters a platform to practise and learn from artists invited from across the region and beyond.