Artist Chhim Sothy is lashing out against Phnom Penh’s ever-changing cityscape in his new exhibition Visions, at the Tamarind restaurant, running from last Thursday to February 10.
Inspired by the unrelenting changes taking place in his homeland, Chhim Sothy’s exhibition is a critique of the modern day Phnom Penh. As visitors enter the gallery, they are greeted by his work Precept Transgression, which depicts the Buddha surrounded by images of destruction and chaos
“Society is comprised of so much decadence and destruction, environmental devastation, killing, poverty,” he told 7Days. “I want to express the suffering of all these people. There is a global problem with the environment and the respect of nature, which can be understood by everyone.
“In Cambodia, there is a saying: ‘where there is water, there is fish.’ Now there is water, but no more fish.”
Chhim Sothy describes himself as “a monk in search of wisdom” – a person who seeks spirituality in every painting, and who takes time to meditate before picking up a brush.
“If you respect Buddhism you have to share and respect each other,” he said. “We invest a lot of money to build pagodas but we don’t care much about the houses that people live in.” In his conversation and in his work, he asks the question: “Why do you see men who go to pray and meditate in temples, yet carry guns with them?”
He paints with harsh brush strokes, apparently designed to portray the ugliness of human loneliness and the “alienation of the individual in a time when cities and populations continue to expand.”
One piece shows two fighters engaged in a battle, each struggling for individual survival.
“Sometimes I feel like I am in jail when I paint traditional stuff, but when I paint more abstract work there are no rules and I have more freedom,” he said. But the artist quickly added that painting “the traditional stuff” does help pay the bills.