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Khmer artist exhibited in California


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Three of You Khin’s paintings that are now on show in California. Pictures Supplied

An exhibition of paintings by the late Khmer impressionist You Khin is being shown in the US for the first time, at the Picture Art Cultural Foundation at California State University in Dominguez Hills, care of Van Cleve Fine Art.

Titled I Have The Right, the exhibition started on Wednesday and will continue until August next year. The launch was attended by the artist’s wife, You Muoy, who gave a lecture on You Khin’s life, and the Khmer Rouge-era brutality that influenced his work.

You Khin left Cambodia in 1973, after graduating from the Phnom Penh Royal University of Fine Arts. Though he is now associated with his paintings, he graduated the university with a degree in interior architecture, and travelled to France for a scholarship.

The timing of his trip meant that he narrowly avoided the worst of the atrocities being committed in his home country.

But despite being a continent away, the ascent of the Khmer Rouge heavily influenced his artistic style – many of his paintings contain symbols of freedom and enslavement, such as doves, chains and locks.

After leaving the Kingdom, You Khin wandered around the world for 30 years, visiting Africa, the Middle East and London, before finally coming home in 2003. His first solo exhibition in Cambodia was held in 2009, but the artist did not live long enough to hold a second – he died of lung cancer later that year.

You Khin’s work is being shown alongside paintings from artists hailing from Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and India. All of the pieces are linked by the central theme of self-expression in the face of adversity.

According to a press release from Van Cleve Fine Art, “You Khin’s work following his return to Cambodia in 2003 depicts the social consequences of the Cambodian women now left to fend for themselves without their husbands, families and educational experience. His last paintings reflect his dream of a world without discrimination, fear or hatred. You Khin’s 225 paintings are the only complete archive of work from this period of Cambodian history, telling the joint story of displacement and genocide. Each of these paintings is an important document of an artist’s interpretation of the intellectual genocide that wiped out nearly all of Cambodian fine art.”

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