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Cross-cultural artists join hands

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BURMESE contemporary artist Htoo Aung Kyaw was busy when we caught up with him in the art gallery of Meta House, putting the finishing touches to two paintings for an exhibition that opens in Phnom Penh tomorrow night.

His artwork focuses on the religion and culture of his native Myanmar, and will be shown as part of a eightartist exhibition from Myanmar and Cambodia titled Between.

Htoo Aung Kyaw, 33, has collected photos of Buddha and handwritten texts in Khmer script and Burmese to create his collages. “I feel as if we have similar cultures and traditions in Burma and Cambodia, so I just want to show the connection between both countries in areas such as religion and tradition,” he explains.  

However, he’s been surprised by the traffic jams in Phnom Penh caused by the huge numbers of motorbikes and tuk tuks on the road, unlike in Yangon. During his stay, Htoo Aung Kyaw has been busy taking photos of Phnom Penh’s street life so he can show his friends what the traffic is like here.

One of Myanmar’s most prominent female artists, Phyu Mon, 50, is bringing her art installation titled Song for Nature.

The first female artist in Myanmar to work on multimedia and performance art, Phyu Mon collects materials such as branches, bricks and handmade rattan pieces to use in her digital photographs, aiming to raise awareness of environmental protection.

“Nowadays, we have a disruption to the environment. Many artists work on concepts involved with the environment because there are so many natural disasters such as cyclones,” says Phyu Mon.  

Having shown her art installations throughout Asia, Europe and the United States, Phyu Mon hopes to broaden her message that nature always brings people some benefit, so people should learn to protect the natural world.

Siem Reap-based artist Yim Maline, 29, has made an installation using nails, cotton, nylon string and plywood – the nails represent her life when she was a small girl, she says.

“In the 1980s, my family had not enough money to buy me a toy to play with, like other girls had. We couldn’t even get access to good basic public services such as hospital. If we got sick, we could easily die, so I felt as scared as hell all the time when I was a child,” says Yim Maline, who trained at Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) art school at Battambang and later in France.

“I compared the scary things at the time to these nails, which could endanger us when we sit under them,” she said. She also used cotton in her works – “life was very risky at that time, just like cotton which can fly away so easily.”

Two more Burmese artists and three Cambodian artists are also showing their works at Meta House in the same exhibition.

Aung Naing Soe, a 26-year-old artist from Yangon, will show his video installation about ice blocks while Ma Ei, 33, also from Yangon, will show her artwork made of canvas and frame, using it as a metaphor for the role of men and women in society. She compares canvas to men and frames to women. “Normally people see the canvas as more important than the frame, but really, the canvas and frame should support each other.

“As human beings, men and women were born equal, so form and structure in society need to be changed, or perhaps transformed,” says Ma Ei.

Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang, 28, who has an art education from the Royal University of Fine Arts, will show his video installation showing him wearing buffalo horns and pulling a cart along the streets of Phnom Penh. Meas Sokhorn, 34, a Cambodian art graduate from the same university, will show his sculptures. Tes Vanna, 29, who trained at PPS, will also show her art installation.  

The curator of the exhibition, Lydia Parusol, says the exhibition aimed to encourage artist exchanges between countries, supported by the German Heinrich Boell Foundation.

“There are many connections and lines between Cambodian and Myanmar. Htoo Aung Kyaw works on paintings which show the similarity between Cambodia and Myanmar,” said Parusol. “Phyu Mon works on environmental issues, which have no boundary – it’s a global problem.”

Between opens at 7pm tomorrow night, June 14, at Meta House, 37 Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh, and runs until July 10.

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