Adrienne Clarkson once said, “Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.”
Here, we see people with their unique yet usually underrated talents: wood carving.
Instantly, the thing that pops into people’s minds when talking about the craft of wood carving and how it’s being produced is that “it’s unnecessary” and that it’s too expensive and just too much.
But in Cambodia, even in the economically growing capital Phnom Penh, wood carving remains relevant and well-appreciated.
Wood carving is a form of woodworking by means of a cutting tool, usually a knife, in one hand or a chisel by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet. Depends on the style and technique of the artist or carver.
Yes, the art requires a very intricate and complicated skill. But that’s what makes it a valuable art. Resulting in a wooden figure or figurine, wall design and a lot more execution types.
The making of sculpture in wood material has been extremely widely practiced, not just in Asia but all over the world. Unfortunately, because of its vulnerability, decay and insect damage, it survives much less well than the other main materials such as stone and bronze,
However, it forms an important hidden element in the art history of many cultures. Cambodians have great pieces of woodwork that have been crafted throughout the ages to honour religion and its history. Sculptures of Buddha, statues of celestial maidens known as “Apsara”, Angkor tales and other stories were regularly made of wood to adorn royal temples and even homes.
Khmer woodworking designs have typically used four main styles since the Angkor period: wind, water, land and air. Each style has unique defining aspects, and symbolises different and important elements of the human experience, Khmer experience in particular.
Wood carving speaks not just about art but mostly about history and culture.
Cambodia has preserved it quite well that even in this modern days we still see artisans showing off their delicate works, bearing a distinct mark on each piece of art.
Wood as a material may not be as solid as a stone, or massive as a column or elegant as a stained glass but each of these pieces of wood-carved materials means something bigger than any of us. And this is one proof that the art industry in the Kingdom is very much alive.