January 26, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Sitting in front of a black-and-white image printed on thick fabric with LED lights directly on the frame, Our Darith is cutting paper into small pieces and inserting them into the place with the utmost care and adjusting them to make them cast symmetrical shadows.
From the beginning of the first paper insertion until finishing the work as a whole completely on the thick paperboard the whole thing seemed disordered until Darith turned on the lights on the frame and the Angkor Wat shadow painting appeared as if by magic.
This is a kind of light and shadow painting created by Darith and based on the art of shadow casting on a piece of wood on the wall by a Japanese artist.
Darith, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, recalled: “I once saw a Japanese artist’s work where he arranged pieces of wood on a wall and illuminated them with light to create a human image. It really shocked me and I started to think that I would have to create this kind of art form myself. It was a childhood dream.”
While studying at university, Darith, 28, worked in film and pursued a career as an art director, focusing on the creation of materials and art for films after graduation.
At one time, he saw a picture that was widely shared on Facebook, a photo of shadows and light shining through the window frame of Angkor Wat, reminiscent of images of created Japanese art.
“I got the idea of arranging the pieces of wood on the wall and the twinkling lights of these two windows frames add together, I thought that using only things made of light and shadow I could create something new of my own. I also started researching and understanding art objects,” he said.
Darith’s idea did not materialize until the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the lockdown and closure of the country. The young man was suspended from the film industry, but continued to innovate by discovering new things and starting to follow their dreams from childhood.
He decided to create art objects from light and shadow in a frame that could be displayed. Taking a sample by preparing a piece of wood or using hands in front of light to shown various pictures on the wall, Darith saw that paper can easily change the shape of a shadow made by shining light behind it.
“When I first made the picture, it was very difficult because I did not know where to start, just know that it started from paper. When cutting the papers it started out as just a simple triangle and I was not very happy,” he said.
The next image he is working on is a portrait of His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk, starting with the printing of the portrait and turning it into a black and white image, then making a shadow version according to this picture.
He described the difficulty between drawing on paper and cutting out silhouettes, saying that when using a flexible pencil or brush, the painter could erase it at the wrong point, but in the case of shadows and light painting things were more difficult.
“When I created my first work, I was so excited that I bragged about it. They were interested and ordered a series of photos. I started receiving orders from customers from then on and so far I have made more than 30 paintings,” he told The Post.
Darith said that the image of Angkor is very complicated because each gallery of the temple is different and has small details that require a lot of patience.
He said that from the beginning to the completion of the Angkor Wat it took him more than two months. For his annual paintings that can be sold to customers like the Buddha and Angkor Wat, the prices are from $299-$399 per painting.
For custom order pictures, most of which are photo replicas, the standard size is 60 x 90cm and sometimes slightly smaller and are priced at $499 and up, and possibly higher than this in the future.
In the past, due to the limited number of works made, Darith said that he has not yet shown his art in any art exhibition, but he plans to participate in other programmes.
“Obviously, for the upcoming Angkor Sangkran event [in April] I will show my work in the exceptional artists village, where I will add another work,” he said.
Darith, who said that producing light and shadow paintings takes time and talent, said he could also produce murals, but he focused on the circumstances that should be on the frame or on the wall.
As for electrical engineering skill, he said that from the time he studied until he completed three months of internship, he decided not to start a career in this field.
He explained: “When I served my internship, I realized that this skill was not suited with for me because I went to work in the morning, came back home tired and went to bed and got up to work again the next morning. This is not what my life needs.”
Although he did not pursue a career as an electrical engineer, he has applied this knowledge to his artistic work experiences in the field of filmmaking by understanding the creative ideas needed to integrate the art form with technical aspects.
The former electrical engineer said he sees the value of the artwork based on knowledge and other skills.
“What I see, overall, good artists always do things that make it even better, it is beyond work, with knowledge and other skills. We must do something to attract attention and expand our market,” he said.