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Cambodian artists express life in the capital

A DIVERSE group of young artists calling themselves Selpak Krusa, or the Art Family, has been supporting each other since they were students at the Royal University of Fine Arts five years ago; and now, with a sophisticated new exhibition at Meta House, it's clear that the Art Family has grown up.

With a vaguely urban theme, the "Intercity" exhibition covers an incredible diversity of styles.

Yen Entareak's architectural painting of muted rectangles, for example, has a quiet, meditative quality, while his drip painting of chaotic white and yellow circles contrasts a sense of energy with one of emptiness. The white and yellow paint droplets collide and implode on top of each other on one side of the canvas only to dissipate into a murky expanse of black and green on the other - transporting the viewer from disorder to tranquility.

Of the sculptural installations, Ou Vanndy's work, in particular, stands out by mixing the traditional and modern, urban and natural in his two ambitious pieces.

With his interpretation of a traditional Khmer kite made of bicycle chains, gun parts and  mechanical odds and ends, he said he wanted to "convey flying and freedom", which he does aptly - but the feeling of heaviness in the large metal work also suggests the difficulty of achieving freedom in modern Cambodia.

In his other work, a relief of an elephant also constructed from bicycle and gun parts, he said he wanted to bring attention to the plight of elephants. He does this by imbuing the relief with a sense of urgency. The elephant's ears are flared, the trunk twisted, and its mouth open. As an added reminder of the dangers that elephants face, the tusks are made of gun barrels, highlighting the poacher's desire for ivory.

Like his colleague, Chhea Bunna combines traditional Khmer design and modern recycled metal.

In one piece, he uses bicycle chains and scrap metal to re-imagine a korngchak design, a motif commonly used around pagodas to ward off evil spirits. Despite the ancient inspirations and industrial materials, his pieces are thoroughly modern and surprisingly delicate.

The "Intercity" exhibition opens at 6:30pm this Saturday at Meta House.

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