FIVE Cambodian artists and five American artists have joined hands across the waters to bring their paintings, drawings, sculptures and videos to an exhibition at Meta House in Phnom Penh.
The cross-cultural group Global Hybrid was established in 2008 in Phnom Penh with the purpose of fostering connections between Cambodian and American artists, said the founder, Denise A Scott.
“Khmer New Year in Long Beach, California, has plenty of traditions and musicians, but there was no visual art such as paintings to show over there. I knew Cambodian Americans, but I didn’t know any
Cambodian artists. What I wanted to do is to make connections between one artist and another,” she said.
Since then, artistic exchanges have taken place each year between Cambodian and United States-based artists. In 2009, she brought five Cambodian-American artists to Cambodia and Battambang artist Kchao Touch was invited to show her paintings and sculpture in the US.
Last year, Phnom Penh sculptor Meas Sokhorn displayed his sculpture made of 7,000 chopsticks in the US but it was often hard for Cambodian artists to obtain visas, said Scott.
This latest exhibition, which opens tonight (July 14) at 6pm, is entitled One Plus Two, reflecting the connections between artists, said Scott, who is a sculptor and illustrator.
Phe Sophon, 28, a sculptor who studied at the former Reyum Art School, shows a sculpture made of several water bottles called Draining Water.
“The situation of my poor relatives made me think of that title. Every time it rains, water falls through the holes in the roof of their house,” said Phe Sophon. He used plastic bottles, he explained, because he saw that some of his poorer relatives couldn’t even afford a water bowl, so cut the top off plastic bottles to draw water from the pond to drink.
“I want people to think about the impact of plastic bottles. Normally, plastic bottles are made from chemical components. This can affect our health and people should be aware of the problems,” said the sculptor, who has shown his work in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and France.
Battambang painter Soun Seney hopes the art show will help him get to know other artists better. The 29-year-old studied at non-profit arts school Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS).
His focus for this exhibition is street children, painting them scavenging plastic trash and aluminium cans to sell.
Soun Seney sees these impoverished street kids as a legacy of the civil war, where families were torn asunder, children were orphaned and civil society fell apart.
“I want to alert other people to think that if these children are still scavenging, how can their future children give up looking for money on the streets this way. Even though these people are self-employed, it’s still child labour,” he said.
Besides his burgeoning art career, having shown his works many times in Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap, Soun Seney teaches painting to children at five primary schools in Siem Reap province.
US-based video artist Anida Yoeu Ali, 37, will show her two films – 1700 Percent Project: Mistaken for Muslim and Buddhist Bug Project – which she made together with her husband, Masahiro Sugano, 39.
The first five-minute film features a poet, dancer, angel and prisoner converging with the community to intervene against racial profiling and hate crimes after the plane crashes at the World Trade Center building on September 11, 2001. The film shows American Muslims in Chicago who refuse to give into violence.
Buddhist Bug Project, which lasts just two minutes and 25 seconds, is about a displaced creature destined to travel and wander amid the spaces “‘in-between”. The bug simultaneously exists as a bridge, a tunnel, and a spiritual being. She is a hybrid result of reincarnation and transmigration. The project seeks to map a new spiritual and political landscape, said Anida Yoeu Ali.
Other artists include Chhan Nawath, Brian Doan, Gina Han, UuDam Nguyen, and Sayon Syprasoeuth,. Meta House is at 37 Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh.