The latest exhibition from the Japanese-run Small Art School opened at New Leaf Book Café last week. Titled Cambodian Treasures, the exhibition showcased 21 works from some older students at the school which, since 2008, has provided free art classes for Cambodian children.
“The majority of the artworks are by the Small Art School individual students, and then a few are from the Self Help Community Centre in Kro Bei Riel village – their students have been taking art classes with us,” says Yuko Sakata, the Small Art School’s art coordinator.
Small Art School has its own gallery, Khmer Kids Art Gallery, above the Old Forest shop opposite the Old Market, but Sakata says the gallery tends to display artwork from the under-15-year-olds, so the New Leaf exhibition is a chance to let the older students shine. “We are hoping to use this as an opportunity for the young adults to have an exhibit,” she says.
This is the second time Small Art School has exhibited at New Leaf, and café co-founder Ian Croft says he has always been keen to support the school.
“When I started doing the café, Small Art School were one of the first organisations I met,” he says. “I said to them it would be really nice to have their artwork in our café, so it’s all sort of just extended off from there.” The exhibition will run for a month, with works ranging from watercolours to oil on canvas. The theme, Sakata says, is quite loose.
“We always tell the individual students to think about what they’d like to draw but many students like to create Khmer images, so we have for example Angkor Wat, Apsara dancers, hands of Apsaras. It’s all from the heart,” she says.
Other subjects include butterflies, a floating village at sunset and lotus-flowers. Sakata says the school is delighted that some of the young artists have now come full circle, teaching children themselves.
“Some of them started teaching at the local school,” she says. “We have a Japanese lady who goes to the villages and helps them learn how to teach. They get paid so actually it’s like a teacher training.
“I think it’s a really good experience for them to develop and share their talents, and Khmer can teach Khmer also – that’s actually our aim.”