While most Cambodians and expats sweat it out in humid temperatures during the country’s wet season, Khmer artist and refugee Chath pierSath picks apples and pears on a shaded produce farm in eastern Massachusetts in the United States.
“We grow the best, juiciest pears and peaches on the farm,” Chath pierSath says over a cup of strong Laos brewed coffee at Java Café and Gallery.
Chath pierSath, who flits between Cambodia and the States every six months, will open an exhibition of artwork titled Khmer Lessons at Java Café on Wednesday night.
“I called it Khmer Lessons because I was taking Khmer lessons at the same time I was making this art,” he says. “I was searching for my mother tongue, my vocabulary, trying to reconnect with my own culture.”
Chath pierSath is unsure of his birth date but believes he was born in 1968. After surviving the Khmer Rouge regime as a child, he went to the US as a refugee in 1981.
“I am here in Cambodia now, but I am not. I am in between,” he says.
“I am trying to fill a gap, find my culture – there are so many hidden lessons of history. Many people are trying to rewrite their history.”
As such Khmer Lessons delves into his past and personal memories in search of ‘hidden lessons’.
He tore and cut images and texts from the media and reconstructed them into his own story on recycled canvasses. He also used clips from journals compiled over time.
Each journal has a theme that looks into his past and into his identity, family, culture and relationships.
The finishing touch of the artwork is varied in texture and textile and includes paper collages, drawings and acrylic paints.
These canvasses aside, a unique inclusion to Khmer Lessons is Chath pierSath’s ‘Installation’ piece. Installation is a 3D monument of fragile blocks stacked like a city, which can easily be knocked down. The blocks, like the canvass pieces, have similarly been arted with torn images and drawings.
“I just want to share my views and experiences. Maybe there is a universal lesson – how can reclaim a memory, things that have been lost? It’s up to us, individually, to do our own reclaiming.”
Chath pierSath’s work has been exhibited in States, Canada, Singapore and Cambodia. He also published has a book of poems titled After which can be bought at Monument Books on Norodom Blvd.
The Khmer Lessons opening is from 6 to 9pm at Java Café and Gallery on Wednesday, February 22. His work will be displayed until April 22.