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Meet the Metal Guru

Som Kanika / Khmer Times Share:
Vibol does most of his work at night, when he is better connected with nature. Supplied
Being an artist does no ensure you an instant fame and wealth, that is what most people said, but for ‘metal artist’ Sok Sovann Vibol, the tussle journey toward his dream of being a great artist remains the same and he holds tightly to this identity as he continues to create pieces of his beloved artworks. Som Kanika has an exclusive interview with the metal artist.

GT2: Can you let us know your journey of becoming a metal artist?

Sovan Vannak Vibol: I am the only child in my family who chose to become an artist. I learn these copper carving from most of my self-observation and self-practicing even though I haven’t been to any school to study carving but I truly believe that the passion I inherited from our ancestors is enough to guide me to find the way of metal art. I always feel that I am guided by spirits. Perhaps that’s the reason I feel tireless while I am crafting my artwork.

GT2: What is your process in creating artworks?

Sovan Vannak Vibol: I think the most time-consuming part is to come up with the concepts. Sometimes it takes me just 2 or 3 days just to craft an artwork. The rest is all about putting together the ideas, craving and coppering it.

You might say I am different but I can draw enthusiastically only at night. I think it’s because the night time is a moment where everyone falls asleep. It is a moment full of tranquility and peace. There is only me and nature (such as the sound of crickets, toads and the moon). I and nature get along so well. During the day, I can’t draw whenever I want. Everything seems to depend on my emotional state. However, I can draw fast and easy at night time.

It takes me at least three days to draw and carve the copper as every piece I make, I usually do it at night time. Therefore, during the day time after a cup of coffee, I cut the copper and shape it for eight hours straight as this kind of activity doesn’t require much of my emotional state.

In addition to this, from what I can tell there are four forms of ‘Kbach’ (decorative patterns)– there’s vine (soil), flame (fire), Angkor (wind) and Phnhi Tes (water). All represent the four elements of the Earth. My favourite is Phnhi Tes. And I believe my soul is connected to the water element.”

GT2: What is the value you see in the metal art that inspires you to become an artist in this field?

Sovan Vannak Vibol: I find extraordinary beauty in Khmer Kbach , especially the style and its depiction. I am proud to be born in this country. I am mostly seen at places such as pagodas, national museums, and so on. Indeed, those places are my sources of motivation. The old canvas and painting in pagodas from the French colonial period trigger my drawing skill, and people also know me through my identity in the art.

Vibol does most of his work at night, when he is better connected with nature. Supplied

GT2: From your opinion, how can art contribute to the society that we live in?

Sovan Vannak Vibol: I think keeping “kbach Khmer” alive is the same way as keeping our culture moving forward. One nation cannot survive and be civilised without its traditions and culture. While our state begins to industrialise itself, at the same time we should not leave the great beauty that our nation has behind. When looking at the other nations’ art sectors, we can see that they all have a great artistic identities that is well-known to the world. While in our countries, we already have that but most of us seem to neglect this beauty and do not even care about it.

Despite this, I see most people complain that we don’t have anything besides Angkor Wat to show off to the world. Actually we have so many great things to impress other peoples but some of us are just too addicted to other cultures and forget about what they have.

GT2: What are the challenges you think artists are facing today?

Sovan Vannak Vibol: We do what makes us feel happy and such moments make us feel alive. It is true that fame and wealth are important but it is not important enough if after obtaining it, we are still not happy. Life is short. We should go after what makes you feel the sunshine.

Regarding my current situation, amidst the coronavirus outbreak, many sectors have slowed down, and it is no different for artists like us. I barely make any income from my artworks at the moment. Many of my patrons already cancelled their bookings. Despite the struggle, I still think it is better than doing the work that makes you see no purpose in life and feeling lost most of the time.



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