Design Exhibit Promises Beauty, With No Need for Philosophy

Visual art can be confusing. It’s not uncommon to find viewers with slumped shoulders, dawdling between paintings asking themselves, “What am I supposed to feel?”

Takakazu Yamada, who founded the Yamada School of Art in Phnom Penh in 2012, thinks it’s the philosophy behind art that leaves people unable to connect with its often complex meanings. While Mr. Yamada teaches traditional visual arts such as painting, sketching and sculpture at his school, he also teaches a more straightforward craft: graphic design.

Work by graphic design student Long Kimheang. (Ven Phanna)
Work by graphic design student Long Kimheang. (Ven Phanna)

“Design is a little bit more simple. No need for philosophy,” Mr. Yamada said. “Just good form, good balance, a good feeling—and it needs to be beautiful.”

Mr. Yamada tries not to manipulate the ideas of his pupils, but he does have one requirement for his graphic design students. No computers. No tools. Everything by hand.

Long Kimheang, a 22-year-old graphic design student at the Royal University of Fine Arts, had mostly used her hands for clicking a computer mouse before she started taking sketching classes at the Yamada School.

Staying late after classes, Ms. Kimheang and four other young women practiced how to draw perfect circles and level lines.

“It took me many months to learn,” she said.

Work by graphic design student Sam Ol Sovanlika. (Ven Phanna)

For each graphic design class, Mr. Yamada chooses a subject like rain, or spiciness, and asks his students to freely create with the topic in mind. They try to balance their composition and technique with clear communication of the concept.

“Graphic design has its own function,” Ms. Kimheang said. “You can look at it and feel good.”

Designs by the five young artists, all under 25, will be on display at an exhibition opening today at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of the InterContinental Phnom Penh hotel. The exhibition is free and runs through October 30.

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