Lon Lao is philosophical about his current exhibition depicting the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge regime. “Being a human being, we must live meaningfully; young, old, male, female people should all do good for the sake of prosperity and peace,” writes the artist.
Called Black Sky, his exhibition of 25 collages and acrylics remains on show at the French Culture Centre (CCF) in Phnom Penh until June 18.
Lon Lao, who was born in 1975 at the start of the murderous regime, recalls his earliest memories were of starvation and forced labour.
“It seemed that my brain still remembers when my parents were forced to work in a cooperative, leaving me alone in a Child Unit with watery porridge and inadequate food to hardly survive,” he says.
“My paintings do not only describe the KR regime but also the prolonged civil war our country suffered for many years,” he adds.
With his parents and a brother losing their lives during that period, the artist is now keen to pass on his memories to the next generation of young Cambodians.
And his message is clear – love each other and unite.
“Life is a struggle. Although being under the hardship inflicted by the black regime of genocide and bloody civil war, many Cambodian people strived to live with struggle in time of the flame of civil war and mistreatment from Khmer Rouge soldiers in a bid to demand freedom,” he says.
Lon Lao was originally from Thmor Pouk district in Banteay Meanchey province, living in the Saythou refugee camp until he was 14.
He learned to paint through a French teacher who worked with children, until 1994, when th NGO Phare Ponleu Selapak began bringing arts classes to children in Battambang.
His latest series took nearly a year to complete, using collage techniques to attach found objects to his bright, geometric canvases, which use sinuous curves and bold hues.
Black Sky, by Lon Lao, runs at the CCF, 218 Street 184, Phnom Penh daily until June 18.