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Women artists to the foreground


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THE winner of Cambodia’s first art prize for women has opened a solo exhibition of acrylic and watercolour landscapes that celebrate the theme of water.

Doung Saree, winner of the You Khin Memorial Women’s Art Prize last year, has been working on the 14 paintings for this show, at the Java Arts Café and Gallery, for the past year.

Her love of water stems from her exile in Preah Vihar province during the Khmer Rouge regime, which cut short her studies at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh.

Watching the play of light on a running stream provoked Doung Saree’s extensive research into ancient paintings of water.

“Even if it’s just one drop of water, I paint it using an ancient technique,’’ the artist, now a professor at RUFA, says.

“I’ve found 10 different ways that water can flow from lakes, streams, rivers, rain, dew and so on.

“I use the smallest brushes to paint the tiny lines of water flowing, and I need to hold my breath while I’m  drawing the line.”

Doung Saree’s paintings celebrate the vivid hues of Cambodian nature, focusing on the bright flowers and insects buzzing around ponds.

Several species of water flowers are endangered, she says, so she hopes her paintings will help foreigners and Cambodians appreciate their beauty and rarity.

Plants, flowers, people and animals appear in Doung Saree’s canvases, whose stories are rooted in Khmer folklore.

Also at Java Arts is a solo exhibition by artist Chhan Dina focusing on Phnom Penh’s street life – particularly the plight of street children.

Her abstract paintings and clay sculptures focus on scenes of construction work or garbage collectors, showing small figures toting giant sacks of recyclable trash.

Using acrylic, watercolour and enamel paints, Chhan Dina draws on her experience teaching street children to highlight a forgotten sector of society.

“The number of street children who have to feed themselves has not decreased. Some of them have been living on the street since they were very young and are still living on the streets when they’re old,” she says.

“Some paintings also show the poverty of Cambodian people through parents working on farms.”

Chhan Dina hopes viewers will become  concerned about children’s issues and help find a solution.

Both exhibitions run till July 24.

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