Over the next month, artist Kong Vollak will complete work on his newest solo exhibition, all the while the public will be able to look on. Silhouettes of Tomorrowland, launched on Friday at the Asia Foundation, will take shape during a live installation, the first of its kind at the Community Art Gallery.
The artwork takes the city’s rapid – and at times, chaotic – growth as its starting point. Last week, a single wire sculpture already hung from the ceiling in the back corner of the otherwise empty gallery; a finished work of art, to the uninformed observer.
Once finished, it will comprise equal parts printmaking and sculpture, with the gallery divided in two, Vollak explained. Wires, like the tangles that hang over Phnom Penh’s street, will connect the two elements.
Vollak graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts in 2006 with a degree in sculpture, and has exhibited in Phnom Penh and abroad. Since 2013, his work has centred on urbanisation and change.
He’s used to depicting buildings, he said, “but this time, I’m taking [them] from the sky down to the ground”.
Vollak’s murals feature imaginative cityscapes, often with a strong surrealist bent. In a recent charcoal print, for example, he constructs dark, futuristic structures peppered with mundane yet modern details – tiny, European-style outlets.
In Silhouettes of Tomorrowland, Vollak seeks to continue this fusion of the concrete with the abstract. “Behind the work is Phnom Penh, but the main point is for the imagination,” he said.
Key to this notion of imagination is the live installation, which in a way mirrors the rapid construction of buildings throughout the city.
And while Vollak admires the careful work of Vann Molyvann – the “original plan” for the city of Phnom Penh, he said – the blueprints for Silhouettes of Tomorrowland will come together as he works.
The new exhibition marks the third time that Vollak has worked in an open gallery. He completed a series of murals in public view at Sa Sa Bassac several years ago, and another live installation during an artist residence in New York City.
Silhouettes of Tomorrowland is the fifth exhibition in the Community Art Gallery, which opened in November 2014.
Makara Chheng, the gallery manager, envisions it as a place where the Foundation’s work in Phnom Penh – its urban services project, focused on waste management – comes together with community discussion.
“How do we make Phnom Penh a livable city?” he asked. “The gallery is a place for reflection, for stimulating these ideas.”
Likewise, Vollak anticipates the presence of students, artists and others will generate conversation and shape the work as it progresses, as with the city itself.
“A lot of people never see how the artist [is] working, they just see when the artwork is already done and hangs on the wall,” Vollak explained. “This way, it makes a lot of questions.”
Kong Vollak’s live installation will take place through February 16 at The Asia Foundation, #59 Street 242. Once complete, Silhouettes of Tomorrowland will run through April 15.