When I think of Angkor Wat, I think of the centuries-old conflict between the Siamese and Khmer people, the loss of so many lives, the suffering and the lost culture. I think of the enormity of the many temples, their sacred stature, the reverential monks and the common people who continue to pray in them, their grand architecture – their destruction and their saviour.
In 1901 the École Française d’Extrême Orient (EFEO) provided funding and took responsibility for clearing and restoring the Angkor and the ruins were rediscovered. Angkor has since been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
I tried to encapsulate these thoughts in a painting. The predominant feature to the temples were steps – steps to a higher existence. This painting evolved – the atmosphere was enough to portray my inner thoughts.
Angkor means city or capital – it was once the ancient capital of Cambodia and the centre of the Khmer empire. The empire built many temples all over Cambodia. These temples were in honour of the Hindu gods – Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma.
So many magnificent temples we visited and each had their own story to tell. There were many levels in the temples separated by a series of steep steps and a matching social hierarchical structure.
If you reached the top of the temple, the Buddha statue, adorned with lotus flowers, and incense would be there to greet you. There you would rest from the intense heat and pray (I prayed that I could get back down without killing myself!)
The temples were crowded with tourists and one of the token attractions was that Angkor Wat was used as a background shot for Angelina Jolie as she paddled her boat across the moat that surrounds the temple in the film Tomb Raider.
Note the roots on the trees that seem to strangle the temple. This was a common sight but the reality is that the roots of the trees had ‘knit’ the temple together over time and there is now a reluctance to interfere with this natural evolution.