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Archive for the ‘Cambodian’ Category

Sa Sa Gallery and Art Project, new artist-run initiatives in Cambodia

Posted by artradar on July 8, 2010


CAMBODIAN EMERGING ARTISTS ARTIST-RUN SPACES PHOTOGRPAHY

In 2009, a group of artists and photographers called Stiev Selapak founded Sa Sa Art Gallery, Cambodia’s first artist-run gallery. The programming focuses on emerging Cambodian contemporary artists. With the idea of wanting to promote the Cambodian contemporary art by supporting emerging Cambodian artists, Stiev Selapak started a new non-commercial initiative in early 2010, the Sa Sa Art Project.

Art Radar Asia spoke with Vuth Lyno, manager of Sa Sa Art Gallery, to find out more about this remarkable and influential group, gallery and project.

Chhin Taingchhea, Untitled, from Old Building series, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Chhin Taingchhea, 'Untitled', "Old Building" series, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Stiev Selapak formed to share ideas

Artist group Stiev Selapak was formed by six Cambodian artists and photographers in 2007, after meeting at a photography workshop. The ideal behind the group is to share, to communicate and to learn together. Three of the members graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts and the other members came from various backgrounds.

Vuth Lyno, Sa Sa Art Gallery’s manager, for example, began his career in the arts as an information technology and communications specialist. In his work, he was required to take photographs for promotional communications which lead to a desire to explore artistic photography.

“Later on I realised that photography is not just about taking photos of happy people. I wanted to show real lives of people. For me that was the entry point.” Vuth Lyno, speaking with Art Radar Asia.

Vuth Lyno, Untitled, from Reflect series, 2007. Image courtesy of   the artist.

Vuth Lyno, 'Untitled', "Reflect" series, 2007. Image courtesy of the artist.

Each of the members implement their projects individually, but also work together. As Lyno elaborates: “Sometimes we would go out, take photos and document, review and show them to each other, comment and share what could be improved in a way where we could reflect [on] our personal inner perspectives.”

Sa Sa Art Gallery is founded

Stiev Selapak opened Sa Sa Art Gallery in early 2009. Significantly, Sa Sa is an abbreviation of Stiev Salapak, who are also known as the Art Rebels. For the group, the name Art Rebels did not find meaning in rebelling, but saw it more as wanting to do something new. “We want to introduce contemporary photography to people here and promote it to a wider audience,” Lyno divulges.

In the beginning, the group wanted to find a space which they could work in. Having some support, they could start having exhibitions. Mostly these events showcased photographic works, but the group soon realised that it was not only about Stiev Selapak, it was also about Cambodian artists and Cambodian contemporary photography.

“I believe that we contribute to the local art scene. When we had finished our creation of Sa Sa [Art Gallery] we had attended a one year photography workshop; we had group exhibitions together from all the students graduating from the class. That for me was the big step into the scene, when we look at it from the contemporary photography side.” Vuth Lyno, speaking with Art Radar Asia.

In Cambodia, most of the galleries are foreign-owned. Being artists themselves, the members of Stiev Selapak felt that Cambodian artists did not have a productive and equal relationship with these galleries. They commonly felt they needed a space that was Cambodian-owned, independent and that helped other artists.

Creating the gallery, the founders did not only exhibit their own works, but also work from other local artist groups. Though the size of the gallery is limited, they can still present and sell a decent-sized body of work. ”It’s a matter of how we can present that. So far we’ve exhibited a lot of photography, but we also show paintings and drawings,” Lyno elaborates.

Kong Vollak, Untitled, from Building 2 drawing series, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Kong Vollak, 'Untitled', "Building 2" series, 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

Sa Sa Art Project – a haven for experimental art practice

Earlier this year, Stiev Selapak founded a non-commercial initiative called the Sa Sa Art Project. This project is dedicated to experimental art practice and can accommodate installation art, residencies, meetings, and classes. The main goal is simple – to create opportunities for young artists to realise new ideas, to share their experiences and knowledge, as well as to educate the next generation about art.

One of the main activities of the project is inviting new and emerging artists to live and work at the Sa Sa Art Project’s space. Here they can experiment with new ideas free of any of the limitations normally encountered in commercial galleries. Each residency ends with a short exhibition. One drawing class every week is also held under the project which caters to students and local artists.

Both the Sa Sa Art Gallery and the Sa Sa Art project were created and founded by  Stiev Selapak, but what sets them apart from each other is that the gallery is operating commercially, hosting artist talks and welcoming students. The gallery focuses on showcasing emerging Cambodian contemporary artists’ bodies of work. The art project’s aim is to foster a community of knowledge sharing among artists. It tries to create opportunities for new artists, but also works as an educational program.

Funding and support in the Cambodian art industry

Finding spaces for the gallery and the project was easy, but the more challenging task was finding sustainable funding. In early March this year, Stiev Selapak organised a fundraiser so that they could continue with the programming of the gallery and to expand activities for the art project. Though they sometimes depend on the support from the public, most of the time the founders fund the gallery themselves. Since it is run with minimal funding and minimal resources, their communication and marketing are limited as well.

At the moment, the Sa Sa Art Gallery doesn’t operate on the same scale as other galleries in Cambodia, who represent a number of artists. Sa Sa is limited to representing the founders of Stiev Selapak and a few other artists they have close relationships with. One of the founders, internationally-known artist Vandy Rattana, is one of the more exposed artists in the group, exhibiting his works in Asia and in the U.S.

Vandy Rattana, Untitled, from Fire of the Year series, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist.

Vandy Rattana, 'Untitled', "Fire of the Year" series, 2008. Image courtesy of the artist.

“We have a new wave of artists and photographers coming now, continuing their practices in contemporary photography.” Vuth Lyno, speaking with Art Radar Asia.

One big difference in the Cambodian art scene is that ten years ago there were maybe a couple of contemporary art galleries, a number which has increased significantly over the past few years. Having the experience of creating and starting a gallery, Lyno’s advice would be to consider the idea carefully.

“Putting on an exhibition might not generate enough funds to continue running the gallery. Those who wish to start thinking of opening a gallery need to consider it carefully in terms of marketing [and] connections with buyers and collectors. These approaches have been adopted by many other galleries in town already. There are many gallery/restaurant/café [establishments]. My approach when I mean art gallery, [I mean] a clean gallery where they can appreciate the art.”

Neighbouring countries are more established and more systematic in terms of the development of their arts industries. The founders of Stiev Salapak believe that artists should make an effort to engage with each other in order to learn more. As there is almost no support from the government for the art in Cambodia, artists need to make the effort to create opportunities for themselves in the Southeast Asian region as well as in Cambodia itself. In saying this, although the art scene in Cambodia is relatively new, there has been a significant advancement in recent years.

The main goal for Stiev Salapak has always been to promote Cambodian contemporary art and by doing that, they support emerging artists. As Lyno states, this original idea has not changed. It has evolved into something bigger, meaning that the idea has evolved into something that can now accommodate and support Cambodian artists adequately.

“When we started as a group, we thought we wanted to create a new way of contemporary photographing and to support that we needed a space. Later on we realised it was not about our group, but about Cambodian artists, new emerging artists, the Cambodian contemporary art scene and [making a contribution] to the art scene. We also wanted to welcome other artists. That’s why we created the art project, so we can engage more emerging artist to realise their ideas; to create opportunities for them to experiment [with] their new ideas without any limitations.” Vuth Lyno, speaking with Art Radar Asia.

JAS/KN

Related Topics: artist-run spaces, Southeast Asian artists, photography

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Posted in Art spaces, Artist-run, Artists as curators, Business of art, Cambodia, Cambodian, Emerging artists, From Art Radar, Groups and Movements, Photography, Promoting art, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Four Asian artists nominated for NYC PULSE Awards

Posted by artradar on March 9, 2010


EMERGING ASIAN ARTISTS –  ART PRIZES

 

Four Asian artists were nominated for Pulse Awards at the PULSE art fair  which took place in New York City and Miami between 4-7 March 2010: Shun Duk Kang from Korea, Hiroshige Furuhaka from Japan, Farsad Labbauf from Iran and Sopheap Pich from Cambodia.

Though none of these four artists won either the PULSE award or the People’s Choice award, the fair gave them extensive exposure (they each won their own booths) and point to their status as emerging names in the global scene.

Shin Duk Kang, Heaven and Earth, 2008

Shin Duk Kang, Heaven and Earth, 2008

Shin Duk Kang, a South Korean artist, is represented by Seoul’s Galerie Pici. She creates installation art that reflect the limits of her material while evoking nature in her work. She also makes prints, which utilize geometric forms to continue exploring the subject of nature.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, The Night Became Starless, 2008

Hiroshige Fukuhara, The Night Became Starless, 2008

Ai Kowada Gallery 9 represents Hiroshige Fukuhara, who specialises in drawings with graphite and black gesso on wood. Viewers are drawn to the simplicity of his works, as well as the subtle addition of graphite, which makes his black-on-black drawings shimmer from certain angles. Before PULSE, he was featured in PS1’s 2001 show “BUZZ CLUB: News from Japan.”

Farsad Labbauf, Joseph, 2007

Farsad Labbauf, Joseph, 2007

Iranian artist Farsad Labbauf combines figurative painting with Iranian calligraphy to create a unified image, regardless of the content of the words or pictures within that image. He refers to his Persian heritage as his inspiration, especially its carpet-making tradition: that unrelated elements were able to come together in linear patterns to create a whole. He concludes that his work is “often an attempt for the union of the internal.”

Sopheap Pich, Cycle, 2005

Sopheap Pich, Cycle, 2005

Sopheap Pich is a Cambodian artist represented by Tyler Rollins Fine Art of New York. His work mostly consists of sculptures of bamboo and rattan that evoke both biomorphic figures and his childhood during the Khmer Rogue period. He has become a major figure in the Cambodian contemporary art scene.

AL/KCE

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Posted in Asian, Cambodian, Drawing, Emerging artists, Fairs, Iranian, Japanese, Korean, New York, Painting, Prizes, Sculpture, USA | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

First New York solo show for Sopheap Pich, Cambodia’s most prominent contemporary artist

Posted by artradar on November 23, 2009


SOUTHEAST ASIAN CONTEMPORARY SCULPTURE

On November 12th, Tyler Rollins Fine Art (TRFA) introduced another Southeast Asian artist to the New York art scene. Bamboo sculptor Sopheap Pich’s first solo exhibition in New York will run until January 9th 2009, ending the Fall exhibition season.

RAFT, 2009 BAMBOO, RATTAN, WOOD, WIRE, METAL BOLTS 89 X 177 X 52 IN.

According to TRFA, Pich has been very active on the international stage in recent years and is now considered to be Cambodia’s most prominent contemporary artist. In addition, Pich’s artwork is currently part of the 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale ending on November 23rd.

"THE PULSE WITHIN" INSTALLATION VIEW

“Issues of time, memory, and the body are integral to Pich’s work. For this exhibition, he has created a dynamic group of sculptural forms derived from the internal organs of the human body, such as the heart, lungs, and intestines. These function as visceral reminders of the past and of the intimate, physical connections between human beings” – quoting TRFA’s website

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SF/KCE

Posted in Body, Cambodian, Emerging artists, Gallery shows, Handicraft art, Installation, New York, Rattan, Sculpture, Sopheap Pich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rarely exhibited art and more firsts at Asian Contemporary Art Week New York 2009

Posted by artradar on April 30, 2009


ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK 2009

For the first time since its inception in 2004 Cambodian and Tibetan artists will be on show in the 200 artist, 8 day event to be held in New York May 10-18th.  But this is not the only first for ACAW in 2009.

The event which, according to Asia Society director Melissa Chiu, aims to present “the latest trends in Asian contemporary art” will also highlight the new vitality and increased international profile of artists from Central Asia and the Middle East.

Coming up soon on Art Radar is an exclusive interview with ACAW director Afghanistan-born Leeza Ahmady and her ground-breaking initiatives to change the perception of Asian art. In the art world, Asia traditionally refers to East Asia but Ahmady speaks passionately with us about how she has made it her mission to overtun this narrow definition and why it is important.

 

Qiu Zhijie, Failing City, installation 2009

Qiu Zhijie, Failing City, installation 2009

 

Also new at this year’s event is a platform called Open Portfolios, a series of 20 artist talks and performances, each of which will focus on one aspect of the artist’s work and allow visitors to get up close and personal with artists. Artists involved include Qiu Zhijie (China), Mitra Tabrizian (Iran), Zaher Shah (Pakistan) and Zarina Hashim (India)  at the Museum of Modern Art the husband and wife team Muratbek Djumaliev and Gulnara Kasmalieva from Kyrgyzstan. Seven selected artists will discuss their work in exclusive interviews available on www.acaw.net

In an astounding display of commitment to public education despite the weak economic climate, the ACAW team and the 35 participating venues will together present over 60 events, most of which are free to the public. In fact this year’s event has a record number of artists on show and includes many countries whose artists rarely exhibit work in the United States.

Countries represented include: Afghanistan, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

For a full program visit the  Asian Contemporary Art Week site.

Related posts:

Interview with Leeza Ahmady, director ACAW 2009

  • Part 1: How art from half of Asia has been missed
  • Part 2: Pockets of change in Asian art infrastructure
  • Part 3: Excitement at Asian Contemporary Art Week despite recession
  •  

  • 5 eighties born Cambodian artists in historic survey show Forever Until Now Mar 2009
  • Tibetan art moves away from its religious origins Sep 2008
  • Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for coverage of important Asian art events

    Posted in Cambodian, Central Asian, Chinese, Gallery shows, Iranian, Kyrgyz, Middle Eastern, Museum shows, New York, Nonprofit | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    5 80s born contemporary Cambodian artists featured in historic show Forever Until Now

    Posted by artradar on March 17, 2009


     CAMBODIAN ART SHOW REVIEWS

    This post features introductory profiles of 5 Cambodian contemporary artists born in the 1980s in the 14 artist historic group show Forever Until Now curated by Cambodia-based Erin Gleeson.  The show which can be seen at Chancery Lane Gallery Hong Kong until April 29 2009, aims to document the development of Cambodian contemporary art. 

    This is the third post of a three part series; see the related posts section below to read more about artists born earlier.

    Chan Dany, Kback Phni Tes, pencil shavings

    Chan Dany, Kback Phni Tes, pencil shavings

     

    CHAN Dany (1984) – Chan Dany is one of the few emerging artists in Cambodia creating contemporary work that employs a flexible knowledge of kbach rachana or Khmer decorative forms – an ancient code of organic shapes and patterns applied in diffferent styles. In this show he exhibits part of a series of meticulous and delicate works made with pencil shavings which from a distance appear to be embroidery.

     

    Ouk Sochivy, The Band, oil on canvas

    Ouk Sochivy, The Band, oil on canvas

     

    OUK Sochivy (1984) – It is common in Cambodia for elders to pass on their trade to the next generation. Before his death in December 2008 Say Ken commonly known as the grandfather of contemporary art in Cambodia – instructed his granddaughter how to paint with his self-taught flair.

    Vandy Rattana, Fire of the Year 6, C-print photo

    Vandy Rattana, Fire of the Year 6, C-print photo

    VANDY Rattana (1980) In Fire of the Year 2008 photographer Vandy Rattana captures a hopeless story common in today’s Cambodia. With few fire trucks and bribes required for protection, a sense of chaos and resignation reigns in this series of photographs taken in the destroyed district called Dteuk Tlah or ”clear water’ (a site where 300 hundred families lived in stilted homes above a floating blanket of plastic waste). Vandy is a catalyst for creating community among photographers and artists in Cambodia and is the founder of Steiv Salapak, an art collective and gallery in Phnomh Penh.

    Than Sok, Ktome Neak Ta, Incense sticks glue

    Than Sok, Ktome Neak Ta, Incense sticks glue

    THANN Sok (1984) – Thann Sok graduated from Reyum Art School in 2005. His current practice is an extension of his second year study of architecture. The work in this exhibition is called Ktome Neak Ta. It is a wall installation of 15 miniature houses made of incense sticks. Found in the majority of rural Cambodian homes and in the northeast corners of Buddhist temple grounds, the Neak Ta shrines serve as a site for communication with Neak Ta one of the most omnipresent divinities which populate the supernatural world of the Cambodian countryside. Incense and prayer is offered in a time of need but after the crisis has passed, the shrine is thrown away and a new one built representing a clearing of the old and a chance to begin anew. This is a multi-layered work which is also a comment on the political evolution of Cambodia since Pol Pot.

     

    Sorn Setpheap, Naga, Wall installation paper

    Sorn Setpheap, Naga, Wall installation paper

     

     

     

     

     

    SORN Setpheap (1988) – As a graduate of Reyum Art School in 2005 and Reyum Workshop in 2007, Sorn has been exposed to a range of contemporary practices from visiting artists. Since 2006 this artist and dancer  has been training in the US with the New York-based Japanese dance group Eiko+Koma. In this show, Sorn exhibits a sculpture of a Naga – a serpent believe to be the mythical origin of the Khmer people – made of hundreds of pieces of folded paper creating an undulating form – a new form for a new generation.

     

    Reviews and related links

    A Coming of Age for Cambodian artists – IHT – March 2009 – The show 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, along with several other events, marks a turning point for Cambodian artistic life today. In December Cambodian artists will be represented for the first time at the sixth Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane, Australia, and a few weeks before, the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial in Japan will again showcase the Southeast Asian nation.

    A Haunting Exhibition in Hong Kong – Asia Sentinel – 17 Feb 2009 – this review was published on the eve of the long delayed trial of Tuol Sleng prison director, Kaing Guek Eav – aka \”Duch\” – the first of four Khmer Rouge leaders to be brought before the UN-backed war crime court. 12,000 people died at Tuol Sleng, known as S-21, now the Genocide Museum. This review discusses the effect the Cambodian genocide which saw the death of 1.7 million people has had on art.

    Cambodian Art: Past to Present – 17 Feb 2009 – CNN – Miranda Leitsinger – As well as reviewing the works, this piece documents the hardships and challenges of producing art in Cambodia.

    After a troubled past, new expressions in Cambodian art – IHT – July 2006 – this covers the role Sopheap Pich is has played in catalysing the art scene in Cambodia

    Related categories: Cambodian art, religious art, reports from Hong Kong, emerging artists

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    Posted in Art as meditation, Buddhist art, Cambodian, China, Classic/Contemporary, Emerging artists, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Overviews, Painting, Photography, Profiles, Religious art, Sculpture, Surveys, War | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    5 60s and 70s born contemporary Cambodian artists in documentary show Forever Until Now

    Posted by artradar on March 12, 2009


    CAMBODIAN CONTEMPORARY ART

    This post features introductory profiles of 5 Cambodian contemporary artists born in the 1960s and 1970s in the 14 artist historic group show curated by Cambodia-based curator Erin Gleeson, Forever Until Now which aims to document the development of Cambodian contemporary art.

    This group of artists spent their formative years during and after the Pol Pot regime 1975 – 1979, in some cases in exile. This regime killed the majority of educated people and it is estimated that 90% of artists were lost.

    Hobbled for years by political repression as a result of the Pol Pot regime, the art scene in Cambodia is only now beginning to flourish and gain attention beyond its borders. Even today there are only 50 or so practising artists in a Kingdom of 14 million people.

    Rithy Panh, film maker

    Rithy Panh, film maker

    • Rithy PANH (1964) – documentary film director – he has made more than 10 award-winning works which focus on the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime. In 1979 he escaped to France at age 15 having lost his parents and his sister. As a young refugee he wanted to forget the past and reject all ties with Cambodia. Eventually he found that the only way he could rebuild a life was to face what had happened to himself, his family and country. In this show his chilling 2003 documentary S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine reunites Khmer Rouge prison guards with their innocent captives. It stars S-21 survivor Vann Nath who is an artist also exhibiting in the show Forever Until Now.
    Sopheap Pich, Duel, bamboo

    Sopheap Pich, Duel, bamboo

    • Sopheap PICH (1971) – Sopheap Pich is another of a number of Cambodian immigrant artists who have returned to Cambodia after a period of years abroad and is probably the best known contemporary Cambodian artist outside Cambodia. He has been influential in bringing conceptual art and the practise of art criticism to Cambodia which has no history of art theory or analysis. His family fled Cambodia in 1979 when the Vietnamese army invaded the country and ousted Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. They spent 4 years in refugee camps and when Sopheap Pich was 13 his family emigrated to the US where against their wishes he studied art. In 2002 he returned to Cambodia for a visit and immediately felt he had arrived home. His art concerns itself with the complex economic and social transitions which his country is now undergoing. Originally working in paint, Pich began to feel that his work was not connecting with his people and seeking a new direction began to sculpt using rattan and cigarette packets. When he saw a picture which his girlfriend took of him working with the rattan, his happiness was evident and he realised he had discovered his medium. Many of his rattan sculptures refer to human organs such as lungs and stomachs because Cambodians have a lot of health problems, particularly stomach problems after the poor nutrition resulting from the Pol Pot repression.
    Leang Seckon, Three Greens, Acrylic on canvas

    Leang Seckon, Three Greens, Acrylic on canvas

    • LEANG Seckon (1974) – collage artist – Known as the Basquiat of Cambodia, he is perhaps the artist who is most well known to local Cambodians having popularized The Rubbish Project his ongoing work with communities around Cambodia to raise awareness about the environment. His most recent project Naga 2008 was a 225 meter serpent made of bamboo and reclaimed clear plastic installed in the Siem Reap River for World Water Day. Leang has four pieces of collage work in this show dealing with political and social change. In Gam Chendal he pieces together images representing periods of Cambodian history including the French Protectorate, Japanese occupation, Independence, the Civil War, the Khmer Rouge Regime, Vietnamese rule, United Nations Transitional Authority and the current constitutional monarchy. Three Greens on the other hand is a light comment on the adjustment of people to new rules: the greens refer to traffic lights which have appeared in Cambodia only in the last two years.
    Khavay Samnang, Reminder, Video projection

    Khavay Samnang, Reminder, Video projection

    • KHVAY Samnang (1977)  – photography, video – Khvay is a teacher in a rural province who is acutely aware of the information gap about the Khmer Rouge era in the Ministry of Education certified history books.  The youngest generation learns about this time only through the ubiquitous iconic black and white mug shots of prisoners at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison where fourteen thousand people died. While performing the task of photographing nearly 1,000 school children for their diplomas he noted 2 dominant reactions: shyness typical of youth and a more culturally specific repsonse, resistance to being portrayed as a prisoner. His video projection ‘Reminder’ shows shot after shot of identically-dressed school children in a comment on how in an individual photograph, a person can retain his or her identity but if there is more than one image of a person ie a repeated image,  this becomes a reference to and reminder of prison mugshots and Cambodia’s suffering during the Khmer Rouge repression.

    denis-vantha-min-kim-duel-1

    • Denis Vantha MIN-KIM (1978) – Min-Kim studied art at various schools in France and in 2001 moved to Phnom Penh where he worked on a large scale in black Chinese ink on canvas for two years. Min-Kim’s new series ‘Duel’ is an exploration of his interest in the fight of the Reamker, a Khmer story based on the Indian Hindu epic Ramayana. By painting multiple fighters and stances in the same ring, he references the ancient art form of Pradal Serey – a unique form of Southeast Asian martial arts characterised by shifting fight stances. At the same time it portrays Min-Kim’s personal experience adjusting to the complexities of modern day Cambodia.

    This is the second post in a 3 part series covering the historic documentary show Forever Until Now at Chancery Lane Gallery.

    Related categories: political art, collage

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    Posted in Cambodian, China, Emerging artists, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Human Body, Identity art, Overviews, Political, Prison, Profiles, Social, Surveys | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Historic show documents development of Cambodian art – Forever Until Now

    Posted by artradar on March 9, 2009


    CAMBODIAN ART SHOW

    In a unique documentary and historic show, Cambodian-based curator Erin Gleeson brings the works of  14 Cambodian modern and contemporary artists  to 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong. This post is the first in a three part series.

     Sopheap Pich, Cycle 2008

    Forever Until Now – 10 Chancery Lane, Hong Kong to 25 April 2009

    The ground-breaking show aims to provide an overview of the evolution of experimental and contemporary art in Cambodia and covers 3 generations of artists born between 1933 and 1988.

    What prompted the exhibition? 

    Dealer Katie de Tilly began planning the exhibition last summer when she took an exploratory trip to Cambodia  and was shown around by bamboo sculptor Sopheap Pich and  US- born curator Erin Gleeson who has been based in Cambodia for the last 5 years. Whereas Thailand and Vietnam have been receiving international exposure for some time, Cambodian contemporary artists are on the cusp of  interntional recognition. The work of Cambodian artists will be shown for the first time at the up-coming Asia Pacific Triennial 2009.

     Why is Cambodian art getting attention now?

    Until a decade ago contemporary art in Cambodia simply did not exist but after the opening of the Reyum Institute of Art and Culture in 1998 and other galleries such as Java Cafe, more cutting-edge works began to emerge among the traditional works of silk weavings, silver and stone sculptures.

    It has been over 30 years since the 1979 toppling of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s totalitarian regime. During the last decade Cambodia has enjoyed a period of political stability which has allowed an opening up to external cultural influences and a gradual blooming of the art scene.

    During the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979 a dozen or so artists left the country to study abroad  but when they returned there was little art infrastructure to support their practice.

    Despite an absence of government funding for the arts, international collectors are beginning to become aware of the significant changes in Cambodian art practice thanks to the activities of private galleries (from Thailand in particular), curators ( like Erin Gleeson who established the artist resoure centre Bassac in Phnom Penh last year) and artists themselves such as Sopheap Pich who was selected for the Best of Discovery section at Shanghai Art Fair in 2008.

    The artists

    The artists fall into three groups. The first group only – artists born in the 1950s or before –  are covered in this post.

    The following artists born from 1930s – 1950s  were formative in the development of today’s Cambodian contemporary art because each in different ways appropriated new sources of inspiration. Grandfather of art, Svay Ken focuses on the immediate and everyday instead of the sublime whereas Vann Nath’s dark  heavy work reflects the experiences of terror and torture which Cambodia suffered during Pol Pot. Stylistic development is apparent in the comic art and illustration work of Em Satya while Duang Saree is influential for innovating the traditional motifs and representations in temple art into new forms which better reflect contemporary society.

     Svay Ken, Flood at the Wedding, oil

    • SVAY Ken (1933-2008) – painter – Known locally by the respectful title Lok Ta (grandfather), Svay was remarkable for turning away from traditional art practice glorifying ancient monuments and rural landscapes and depicting in his rough self-taught style the every day moments and objects of Cambodian life. His work as a porter at the lavish Raffles hotel led to sales of his art to tourists which in time evolved into international recognition. He is collected by Fukuoka Asian Art Musuem, the Singapore Art Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery. He will represent Cambodia in the 6th Asia Pacific Art Triennial 2009.

    Vann Nath, Pray for Peace, oil 

     

    • VANN Nath (1946) – one of the most honoured figures in Cambodia he is one of 7 survivors of the Khmer Rouge’s secret prison known as S-21 where 14,000 people were tortured and executed during the 1975-79 Pol Pot regime. His jailors spared his life so that he could be put to work painting and sculpting portraits of Pol Pot. Vann Nath typically paints the dark and violent events he has witnessed.

     

    Duong Saree, Kbach Tonle Sap 2, watercolour

    Duong Saree, Kbach Tonle Sap 2, watercolour

    • DUONG Saree (1957) – Duong Saree is a renowned teacher and innovator of Cambodian Traditional Painting. Over 6 months in 2007 she completed the largest traditional painting in Cambodia (outside the Royal Palace Walls). What is interesting about Duong Saree’s practice is that she is evolving the traditional motifs of temple painting  – usually strictly adhered to – in order to better represent the contemporary world. In this show she innovates new forms for water to complement the five surviving representations of water found in temples.

     

    Em Satya, Deadly Curse of the Diamond, Watercolour

    Em Satya, Deadly Curse of the Diamond, Watercolour

    • EM Satya (1952) – a comic artist – Cambodian comics first appeared in the 1960s taking inspiration from the style of French and the colour of Indian comics. He is best known as “Nono” the pseudonym under which he drew caricatures and political cartoons for newspapers in the 1990s. His newest graphic novel Flower of Battambang (2006) is already seen as a contemporary classic.

    This is the first of a three-part series on this show.

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