Joel Montague has recently made a brilliant addition to the published material on Cambodia’s hand-painted signs. ‘Cambodian Shop Signs: Free-Market Signage in a Post-Marxist Society‘ is a detailed account of the form, featuring over 80 colour images. It is the diversity of the material that makes this book so fascinating, as well as the historical perspective that Joel offers in light of his experience living in Cambodia in the 1990s.
Some of my favourite images capture the Cambodian love of Charlie Chaplin and characters, often musical, appear in his form on many signs. There are then those for myriad medicinal products and treatments, as well as the variations on a theme of those promoting wedding-based businesses. Across all of these is an unrestrained use of colour, making the pages of the book a rainbow of beautiful, and sometimes comic, signage.
Much of the research for my own book, Hand-Painted Signs of Kratie, was informed by prior research from Joel. As Isaac Newton once said: ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants’. Joel Montague is a true giant when it comes to knowledge of painted Cambodian signage and it is great to see his material finally documented in this way, building on his previous exhibitions and interviews. I would recommend picking up a copy (UK here, USA here) and I’ve now added the title to the resources page on this site.
Thank you Joel for your continued support of my own work and for sending me a copy of the book. I leave you with a couple more of Joel’s images from the book that he has kindly shared with me.