This year's art scene is officially underway and the Year of the Dragon has big boots to fill, following a year that saw the launch of the Angkor Art Explo and a massively successful Angkor Photo Festival. But if one man is determined to out do last year, it’s the town’s most avid patron, Loven Ramos.
Starting with a bang, Ramos launched several artists’ exhibitions in his venues last week, mixing media, content and nationalities. The first, home-grown talent Heng Ravuth, launched an edgy self-portrait photography exhibition, Innermost, at Art Deli.
It’s an intriguing collection of abstract nudes. Heng says self-portraiture is his preferred form of expression. “I feel more confident. I love movement and body language. The body can tell you everything without saying a word.”
Heng says he gets the bravery to express himself so intimately through the growth of the Khmer art scene. “It’s much more open now. There are a lot of people experimenting, and there’s a lot more freedom to express yourself.”
Loven says it’s important for the Cambodian art world to showcase local talent, but that needs to coincide with bringing international works from abroad.
“I like the symbiosis of foreign artists getting inspired by Cambodians and at the same time, Cambodians learning from what they see of the world outside,” he says.
It’s with this international vision inside that Heather Stilwell launched her photo exhibit, Darkearth, at Gallery 1961 this week. The Canadian shot the photographs during her time in South Sudan in the lead up to its independence. Heather is a journalist by trade, and this is her first foray into photography.
“Taking photos in Sudan isn’t always the easiest or the safest thing to do, so I was really lucky to get these pictures when I was in the rural areas.”
Loven says the idea of showing pictures of Africa in Cambodia was something that really intrigued him. “We focus so much on rebuilding Cambodia, but on the other part of the world, there are other people trying to rebuild their lives and pick up the pieces. The suffering and the strife and the struggles of everyone; it’s a universal language.”
Heather says that sense of dignity in spite of circumstance is something the people of South Sudan share with their Khmer counterparts. “That’s what I’m trying to show in the photos, the beauty and the strength of some of the people that are living in these situations. That’s what people maybe don’t think about when they think of South Sudan.”
Alongside Heather at 1961 was the third in the trilogy of new collections, Caress, by Vincent Brouslet. In a dramatic twist, the exhibition was pulled just days after the launch, with the Kampot-based French artist citing misunderstandings with management. Loven said Brouslet wasn’t happy that his works were not selling.
Loven said the other exhibitions have sold solidly, with Caress replaced by other works the gallery had not yet exhibited. In fact, despite artistic temperaments giving 2012 a shaky start, the year is to be Loven’s busiest yet.
The Filipino artist is also expanding to the capital with a new venue, Artillery. It will incorporate fashion, art, and, less predictably, super heroes and comic books.