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Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat drawing by Mary Griep
Angkor Wat - Siem Reap, Cambodia - Mixed Media - 31' x 8' - 2001-2002

One reason I chose Angkor for the second drawing was that it was originally built at approximately the same time as Chartres Cathedral, a half a world away. A second parallel came in the restoration: the French restored Angkor in the 19th century at roughly the same time they were restoring Chartres. The restoration process employed a very particular sense of what it meant to be an “old sacred space.”

Angkor Wat consists of three concentric buildings, so the drawing had to be “expanded” so the viewer can see at least some of all three buildings, while still trying to preserve some of the iconic Angkor silhouette. To help differentiate the various buildings I rendered the roofs in subtly different colors. The greenish gray roof of the outermost building is as it is seen during the rainy season. The brownish gray roof of the second building is as it is seen during the dry season. While the goldish gray roof of the central temple crowns the holy shrine built for Vishnu by the Khmers.

The metaphysical model for Hindu and Buddhist temples was Mount Meru, home of the gods. Unlike a western cathedral, a Southeast Asian temple of this era had very little interior space. Temples were typically enclosed by colonnaded hallways sheltering narrative carvings, mostly scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, or small rooms serving as shrines for statues of gods. The worshipper would circumambulate the building, meditating on the various carvings.

Many of the carvings on the pediments of the gopuras (formal gateways) have been damaged or stolen over the years, so I drew them on and then ripped them away leaving symbolic fragments of the originals. Many of the carved elements on the lotus bud shaped towers are also missing. In the drawing, I replaced them with fragments of other 12th century buildings. This was beginning of the collage conversation continued in all subsequent drawings.

The finials crowning the towers no longer exist, so are drawn in a ghostly fashion on the backing board and are based on those preserved on other Khmer temples. The shape of the towers and the carvings on them were meant to break up the edges and make them appear to be spinning – the smudging on the edges suggests movement.

In the drawing, areas of darker values are interior spaces – hallways and shrines. You will notice that there is a darker shaft running from the top of the central tower to ground level. While it is not certain what treasure was originally buried there, the bottom of the shaft was gilded with gold leaf. This is the shaft linking the sky to the earth, originally with a statue of Vishnu in the center, though the central statue is now a representation of the Buddha.

Detail images & Installation photos

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