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Farmers join freshies in art show


Ouk Sochivy, Freshie 6, Freshies series, 2010, oil on canvas.
Nov Cheanick, Farmer 8, Farmers series, 2010, ink on paper.

CAMBODIAN artists Nov Cheanick and Ouk Sochivy are showing their paintings at an exhibition titled Farmers and Freshies, opening tonight at Sa Sa Art Gallery in Phnom Penh.

Vuth Lyno, the manager of Sa Sa, said the exhibition marked the first time paintings had been displayed at the gallery since it opened last year, as all previous shows featured photographs.

“We’re organising this exhibition not only to show paintings that reflect social issues in Cambodia but also to introduce everyone to new artists,” he said.

Vuth Lyno said he decided to exhibit the two artists together because, although they are both young Cambodian painters, they used their work to explore completely different topics.

Nov Cheanick, 21, who lives in the countryside, paints the farmers he sees around his house in Battambang province. He said he wanted other people to understand how hard farmers work to grow rice.

Ouk Sochivy, 25, who lives in Phnom Penh, is more concerned with painting urban youths who copy the styles of the effeminate “freshie boys” and “freshie girls” they see on television.

“This exhibition will show the differences in young people from different parts of the country,” Vuth Lyno said. “Youths in the city are modernised, but those in the countryside seem separated from society, even though they play an important role in Cambodia’s economy.”

Nov Cheanick, who lives with his father and brother in Battambang province, said he didn’t get a good education as a result of his parents’ divorce. He dropped out of school in 2003, but the following year started attending art classes run by the Cambodian NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak, whose school was near his house.

“I spent six years learning how to paint and make wood carvings there,” he said.

Although he has experimented with different colours in his paintings, he mostly creates black-and-white images, a preference reflected in the artwork on display at the Sa Sa Art Gallery show.

“I just think black-and-white paintings are livelier than colourful pictures,” he said.

Nov Cheanick said his method was to spray water onto white paper, drop black ink onto the paper and then use a brush to make the painting.

“I paint farmers I see near my house,” he said. “I hope my paintings will remind viewers that farmers are always working hard. Some of them never get proper educations, and their lives can seem out of touch with modern society.

“The emotions on the faces in my paintings show the situation of our farmers.”

Since finishing his classes at Phare Ponleu Selpak, Nov Cheanick has been teaching art to drug addicts at rehabilitation centres in Bovel and Battambang, making his own paintings in his spare time.

“In the future I just want to be an artist who paints pictures for people to see,” he said.

The other artist in the show, Ouk Sochivy, is the granddaughter of the famous contemporary folk painter Svay Ken, who died two years ago.

“Several months before he died, Svay Ken taught me how to paint in his style and even asked me not to learn art from anyone else so the style would not be influenced by others,” she said.

Like her grandfather, she works with oil on canvas. But while Svay Ken focused on rural scenes and autobiographical images, Ouk Sochivy paints young Cambodian urbanites who sport western clothing and overdone hairstyles.

“Through my paintings, I want to show that many Cambodian youths in the city are influenced by Western styles, such as girls who wear short skirts,” she said. “Cambodian tradition dictates that people should wear appropriate clothing, so these styles can impact our traditional values.”

Ouk Sochivy said that as long as her paintings attracted viewers, she would continue painting in her grandfather’s style.

Farmers and Freshies opens at Sa Sa Art Gallary at (7 Street 360) tonight at 6pm and will continue through September 15. Both artists will be present at the opening.

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