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Love’s pain and joy laid bare

Valentine's Day today is being celebrated at Java Arts Café with an exhibition of paintings and sessions with a Cambodian fortune teller.

Thirteen of the paintings have been created by Oeur Sokuntevy, 27, who studied art for three years with nonprofit group Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang.

They are mainly autobiographical canvases created during a stormy relationship with her previous boyfriend, the artist explains.

“Half of my paintings feature issues that occurred while I was with my previous boyfriend. When I quarrelled with him, I always painted how those situations felt, and put large crosses over his face after we separated,” she says.

That explains the title of her exhibition, Face Off.

However, the path to true love appears to be running more smoothly these days for Oeur Sokuntevy. She says she has now met a new boyfriend and is very happy with him.

“Even though we have a normal relationship, without all those rows, I still paint my feelings about being with him, whether they are happy or unhappy,” she said.

She says women especially can feel the pain of a relationship breakup, saying that many Khmer women are not brave enough to speak about their feelings when they face problems with their boyfriends or husbands.

Her paintings, mostly acrylic on paper, address the pitfalls that can arise in relationships, Oeur Sokuntevy explains, and she’d like others to take a message from her art to give them the courage to deal with their own relationship issues.

“Many people have similar problems, united or separated, but they never dare to talk about their problems openly, so I’m opening up my own problems to everybody.”

The artist says most of her paintings deal with emotions to do with families, couples or sweethearts.

Oeur Sokuntevy’s paintings have been exhibited in galleries in South Korea, Myanmar, and the United States. This July, she will take a collection of her work to Singapore.

At tonight’s opening, fortune teller Chao Kuon Narann, 56, will give sessions predicting whether the course of love will be bumpy or not.

Chao Kuon Narann has worked as a fortune teller since she was 12 years old. She learned how to predict the future from the spirit world, she says, not from any worldly teacher.

“While I was sleeping, I dreamed that an old man handed me a deck of cards. I said no, but he told me that this deck of cards would change my life for the better.”

Using cards, she tells people’s fortunes around the capital, seeing about 30 clients a week. Many of her clients are young women seeking guidance in matters of the heart, she says. For those who don’t speak Khmer, a translator will be on hand to help tonight.

Artist Nicolas C. Grey will also have 12 paintings on display tonight at Java Arts Café, 56 Sihanouk Boulevard, Phnom Penh. The exhibition opens from 6pm. The paintings will remain on show until March 20.

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