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Portraits of icons pull no punches


Bangkok-based artist Christian Develter brings his bold and contemporary Asian-influenced works to Cambodia in his second exhibition in the Kingdom

IT was his fascination with Asia that ultimately drew Belgian-born artist Christian Develter to live and work in Asia.

The artist, who works on bold, large-scale canvasses, said Asia had influenced his early work even before his move to his new digs in Bangkok in 1996.

“Asia is very different to what I am used to. But by living here I absorb a lot of what I see,” Develter explained. “I was making Asian paintings before I went to Asia.”

With a formidable international reputation, Develter has exhibited in Belgium, India, Hong Kong and Thailand.

His exhibition of Asian-inspired works, “Chasing the Dragon”, goes on show tonight at the Chinese House, featuring 20 paintings of icons such as Jackie Chan and Anna May Wong as well as seven lithographs.

It is the second exhibition in Cambodia for the 41-year-old. His 2007 exhibition in Siem Reap showcased Khmer women. Though much of his work is inspired by his adopted homeland, he has also painted portraits of JFK, Marilyn Monroe and Barack Obama.

“I am interested in Asia but it’s not just specific to Asia,” Develter said.

“I think you need to go in both directions. I am kind of in the middle. I am not really Asian, but I am not purely European. For me it’s interesting to have both sides, though I do prefer Asian themes.”

Develter deploys oils, acrylics and a mix of the two media to create his bold, distinctive style. Most of his works, like the paintings in “Chasing the Dragon”, have a contemporary edge that verges on pop art.

Develter said it took him about four months to produce the series.

“Being at the Chinese House, I wanted to bring something that was very Chinese, because my last exhibition, in Siem Reap, was very Khmer.”

And does the title of the exhibition reflect a Chinese influence?

“One of my idols growing up was Bruce Lee,” Develter explained, adding that the exhibition title referred to him.

“Chasing the Dragon” will show at the Chinese House on Sisowath Quay until November 22. In March 2010 he will exhibit at the opening of Teo+Namfah Gallery, also in Phnom Penh.

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