AngkorAnimal Ark: Pony in the Post

Angkor Revisited
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Angkor Revisited

Price per Unit (piece): HK$35.00

Author: Jaro Poncar
Publisher: German Apsara Conservation Project
Format: Paperback USED

During his visits to Angkor in Cambodia in 1994 and 1995, Jaroslav Poncar was kept very busy with the photographic documentation of the bas-relief friezes in the outer galleries of Angkor Vat.

Being involved in the German Apsara Conservation Project at Angkor Wat, he was able to take time out occasionally from his duties and to translate what had from the very beginning been a deep fascination with Angkor, its architectural monuments and its sculpture into a series of impressive photographs, some of which are reproduced here. 

The key object was Angkor Vat, of course, a gigantic complex of temple buildings, erected during the first half of the 12th century by the mighty King Sryavarman, "Who is protected by the sun", and still regarded as one of the architectural wonders of Asia, if not of the world. In its richness and representational aspirations, it has been compared with Versailles, Angkor Vat was designed not only as a cosmic symbol, its meaning culminating in the five central towers that stand for Mount Meru at the centre of the world. Poncar not only successfully captures the splendour and grandeur of the whole architectural complex as it is exposed to different weather conditions, like haze, rain or sunshine; his photographs also isolate the seductive beauty of figures integrated into the larger decorative and symbolist system of the architecture. He was obviously enchanted in particular by the female figures that fill wall panels and flank entrances, of which there are more than 1800 distributed across several layers of the buildings. They are sometimes called devats, "goddesses", sometimes apsaras, "walking between the heavenly waters", and they represent a kind of nymph that inhabits the sky. They are often married to Gandharvas, guardian deities of the celestial region. In their rich dresses and with their fantastic jewelry, but also owing to their ostentatiously seductive physical appearance, they tranform the whole of Angkor Vat into both a heavenly paradise and the lavishly decorated palace of a Cambodian king.

In the slightly later complex of Angkor Tom and the Bayon, Poncar focuses on the towers with their gigantic faces looking in four directions and on the expressive heads of guardian deities flanking the accesses to the city-like temple area.

The two Buddhist temples nearby, the Preach Khan, the "Temple of the Holy Sword", founded by the king in memory of his father, and the Ta Proem captivate all visitors with their juxtaposition of nature and man-made monuments. The architects of the early 13th century intended to create buildings for eternity, but nature took over after the fall of the dynasty, and the roots of trees started entwining the pillars and tearing galleries apart.

However, Poncar also takes us to more remote parts of the Angkor empire, showing us the rich and elegant decoration of 10th century Banteay Srei, the crumbling temple of Banteay Chhmar and even the rarely visited site of Kabal Spean, where vegetation and water literally swallow marvellous sculptures.

~ Roger Goepper


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