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Landmine show launches at la Paix

An interior shot of the sleek new Thev gallery.

THE opening of an exhibition at Hôtel de la Paix last Wednesday night showing defused landmines, sculptures and photographs by demining charity The Halo Trust, enabled the hotel to unveil its new Thev Gallery.

Named after the stone walkway that links outer galleries with the inner sanctum of Cambodian temples, the Thev Gallery is intended as a community venue for charities working in Siem Reap, la Paix’s sales and marketing director Christian de Boer told 7Days.

Proceeds from the sale of art shown in the new space will go toward providing new uniforms for Halo’s 1100 Cambodian staff.

The uniforms, produced by a sewing school funded by the hotel inside Wat Damnak, together with the new exhibition, will draw attention to the mine clearance work of Halo Trust, according to its Cambodian program manager Cameron Imber.

Imber, who has spent 12 years working for Halo in various locations around the world including Kosovo, Abkhazia, Mozambique and Afghanistan, explained that the cost of running a squad, or “section”, of 10 de-miners costs upwards of $15,000 a year.

“Halo doesn’t really do a great deal of fundraising apart from in the UK. In Cambodia we don’t have a fundraising cell so we have to find that balance, and I think having a permanent exhibition here will do it.”

The show includes photographs of clearance work at minefields in Oddar Meanchey, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Pailin, as well as display cases full of metal detectors and anti-personnel mines recovered during Halo’s 20 years of operating in Cambodia.

The opening of the Thev Gallery also coincided with the launch at Hôtel de la Paix’s Arts Lounge of a joint exhibition by British-born graphic novelist Nic Grey and Cambodian painter and sculptor Chath Piersath.

The exhibition is entitled We Live Inside a Dream and Nic Grey, famous for a series of comics written under the pseudonym “Dead Nic”, which became a sleeper hit during the early 1990s, told 7Days he never planned to keep working in the medium after moving to the Kingdom four years ago.

“Doing graphic novels is hard work. They’re usually around 120 pages long and each page is three or four days’ work. My comic experience was during the rave culture period in the early 90s, which I wasn’t keen on, but people from that world liked the comic and it became popular as an underground hit.

“It had stuff in it about raves, drugs, people going crazy, so it came out at the right time.”

But instead of abandoning the graphic novel when he arrived in Cambodia, Grey changed tack when he hit upon the idea of publishing a graphic novel about the life of Indian philosopher U.G. Krishnamurti, famous for his theory that our sense of “self” is an illusion created by the human brain, and thus spiritual enlightenment is impossible.

Grey said he and a friend started work on the project on their own, and garnered a lot of interest from people who knew of Krishnamurti.

Grey said: “We went over to India and some of his supporters decided to help finance it.”

Due for release early in 2012, the unnamed graphic novel is illustrated or “inked” by Grey, and written by Bangkok-based James Farley.

“We got together and worked out how we were going to present the story.

He writes the text in Bangkok and then sends it to me, and I work out how I’m going to draw it. If there are any problems we get on the phone – it’s like a long distance relationship.”

Grey’s paintings and collages on display as part of We Live Inside a Dream also reflect Krishnamurti’s belief that our perception of the world around us is a creation of our minds, with several pieces, including

“The Unfolding of the Starving Buddha” and “Everything is Alive, Everything is Connected”, showing their human form subjects unravelling as tendrils project from their brains and bodies.

Showing alongside Grey’s work is a series of 16 untitled paintings and collages by Cambodian artist Chath Piersath which are based on his experience of returning to Cambodia after growing up in the US from the age of 10.

The series includes several works featuring images and text ripped from magazines and pasted over abstract portraits of anguished looking subjects, which a press release from Chath’s agent explains
is intended to show the overwhelming nature of the fast pace of change in modern Cambodia.

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