Flying pigs, retro hairstyles and hand grenades are among some of the images found in this new book celebrating the art and craft of Cambodia’s hand-painted advertising.
Sam Roberts, a long-time member of the visual anthropological and urban archaeological community, has published his first book Hand-Painted Signs of Kratie, a brilliant and colorful monograph that “introduces the signs, the people who paint them and uses them to explore Cambodia’s art, culture and history.” Mr. Roberts has authored the website and archival project called Ghostsigns UK and has been instrumental in the historic preservation and documentation of vintage painted adverts in his island nation. Roberts was drawn to this “quirky” form of hand-painted advertising while he and his wife Gilly were doing humanitarian work with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Cambodia.
While the signs have experienced something of a resurgence in the last three decades, they now face another demise, this time at the hands of technological and economic development. In this respect, author Sam Roberts draws parallels with his interest in ‘Ghostsigns’, the fading remains of advertising painted on buildings in his native UK: “The loss of hand-painted signs marks a distinct period in countries’ economic development. It is the point at which access to technology and rising labour costs tip the balance in favour of mechanical or digital formats. In the UK this happened in the middle of the last century, in Cambodia it is happening today.”