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Art Surgery, Saving the paintings of the Cambodian National Museum

By: WUPP Posted: August-22-2013 in

The Cambodian National Museum has only six of its twenty-one paintings on display. The rest, from the 19th and 20th century, are hidden in the storage room : some stained, torn, and warped by humidity; others burnt, with damaged borders and missing pigments.

Last year, French-Cambodian Borany visited Cambodia and after falling in love with the culture decided to stay. Skilled in the restoration and preservation of traditional works of art, she has offered her services to the museum. With passion and precision, she has designed a detailed analysis of each painting and its individual needs to be restored back to its former glory. Her aim is to “make minimalist intervention in order to preserve the original spirit of the paintings”, but has estimated that her project ‘Saving Paintings of the Cambodian National Museum’ will take two and a half years. “I will need a lot of patience,” she says, “I must be a perfectionist, as it is a long process”.

Whilst Cambodians are skilled at restoring ceramics and sculpture, no one in the country has the skill to restore paintings and for Borany, this is a dream come true. She sees these paintings as “a testimony of artistic Khmer history”. The techniques needed to restore each painting vary depending on the damage - each requiring precise technical ability. She recently presented her project to students at the Phnom Penh University of Fine Arts where she offered internships to work alongside her. “It is important for me to transfer my knowledge because it is their history, and then they can continue to restore paintings themselves”.

The National Museum are thrilled at the prospect of their paintings being hung back on the walls, and Borany is clearly passionate about the preservation of Cambodian art history. She comes from the belief that “before restoring, you must understand the painting and the story of the painting, so you must study the Khmer history of the 19th and 20th century”.

Until now, Borany has been self-funded. With the project designed and approved, she is now on phase two - fundraising through donations, partnerships and sponsorship to see her project through to fruition. She hopes people recognise the significance of this project, and dreams of a celebratory public exhibition upon completion, with all twenty-one paintings restored.

For further information or to support the project ‘Saving Paintings of the Cambodian National Museum’, contact Borany: borany [dot] mam [at] gmail [dot] com


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