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Cards link stories of Cambodia for Hong Kong show

Leang Seckon sews together one of his mixed media collages
Leang Seckon sews together one of his mixed media collages. Charlotte Pert

Cards link stories of Cambodia for Hong Kong show

Contemporary artist Leang Seckon’s works will be exhibited at the prestigous Art Basel show, with subjects ranging from the monarchy to people’s daily lives in the streets of Phnom Penh

In a new set of 20 works to be exhibited at the prestigious Art Basel show in Hong Kong, contemporary artist Leang Seckon uses playing cards to tie together a series of Cambodian stories.

Seckon, 45, came up with the idea after finding several discarded playing cards during his afternoon walks by the Royal Palace. Initially unaware of the cards’ meanings, he took them to a fortune teller. The predictions she made seemed to foretell events that were to happen shortly afterwards, both positive – such as the artist being invited to visit the Queen Mother – and less positive – like protests in the streets.

“I didn’t plan to collect all those things to use in my paintings,” said Seckon, who works in sculpture, installation, performance and collage and has been racking up international solo exhibitions since 2009. “I just walked from my house for fun and found something interesting and saved it for next time."

“During my walks, I saw people in many different situations of daily life selling, praying, and playing. I searched for the meaning in the cards once I was back home.”

Like the playing cards, Seckon says his artworks are open to interpretation however he says he had specific stories he wanted to tell with each.

Leang Seckon is taking 20 of his pieces to the prestigious Art Basel show in Hong Kong
Leang Seckon is taking 20 of his pieces to the prestigious Art Basel show in Hong Kong. Charlotte Pert

“The painting discuss people’s daily life in the street,” he said. “At the same time they’re about poverty and power, development and the environment, and the society and economy of people around the Royal Palace.

Seckon’s mixed media collages produced for the exhibition have cards sewn on to a heavy backing alongside cutout photographs, shadow puppets and the artist’s own illustrations in pen and paint. He explained that the subjects he has chosen to juxtapose are significant.

“For example, I discuss society so I chose a published picture of King Father Norodom Sihanouk and other famous people to show the relationship between them,” he said.

The presence of “Series of Cards” at Art Basel Hong Kong, which starts on March 15, is a coup for the artist. Over the past decade Hong Kong has emerged as a global arts hub, and Seckon is the only Cambodian artist whose work has been selected for inclusion by one of the 233 visiting galleries. Rossi & Rossi, a prestigious London-based gallery specializing in Asian art, have dedicated their entire booth to showcasing his work.

Seckon is excited by the opportunity. “I hope that I can show that life in Cambodia is beautiful, not the struggle that people abroad often think. Through my paintings, I want the country to start getting more attention,” he said.

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