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Sa Sa art exhibition explores urban identity, mental health

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Art exhibition Rebuild at Sa Sa Art Projects in Phnom Penh. SA SA ART

Sa Sa art exhibition explores urban identity, mental health

Three young artists – including a Buddhist monk – are holding an art exhibition called Rebuild at Phnom Penh’s Sa Sa Art Projects gallery space until mid-May.

Leng Kimsreang, Kong Dara, and Soung Pheakdey are exhibiting paintings, sculptures and large-scale installation works that highlight the simple yet complex cycles of life and human creation.

The three are aiming to explore the links between psychological health and urban development, the fluidity of life, love, and gender, and human relationships with ecology and dharma.

“The exhibition’s title is taken from Kimsreang’s work Rebuild, which features sculptures and installations made primarily from shattered tempered glass that she collected from various construction sites in Phnom Penh,” said Chum Chanveasna, manager at Sa Sa Art Projects.

Kimsreang, who graduated in interior design from the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA), is interested in the type and function of tempered glass because it is not only used as a weather barrier, but is also transparent, and exposes the interior of a structure.

“No matter how strong the glass is, it will shatter into many small pieces when it reaches a certain pressure level,” she said.

Kimsreang, who also took contemporary art classes at Sa Sa Art Project, sees the glass as no different from a person’s mental health; it can only withstand pressure to a certain degree.

“I put the rubble back together in various forms, such as balls, cubes, an arch, and a ground for new growth, while creating conversations with other materials, such as nails, steel bars, a tire, and textbooks,” said 26-year-old Kimsreang.

“By doing so, I am trying to create new life in something that has been broken – to show how strength and fragility go hand in hand,” she added.

She explained that by reassembling these tiny pieces of glass, she believes she is capturing the psychology of Phnom Penh’s rapid development and frequent change while contemplating the process of mental healing.

Kimsreang has featured in exhibitions in Phnom Penh since 2019, and in 2021 took part in the Festival d’Art Sacre de Compiegne in Compiègne, France.

Non-Binary, by Kong Dara, 33 comprises eight drawings made of pen and coloured pencil and a sculptural installation made of unfired clay.

The fine, delicate drawings depict blue threads twisting, wrapping around something resembling maps. In the centre are light yellow forms, which, when we take a closer look, appear to be organic forms which are swimming and moving.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
(From left) Leng Kimsreang, Soung Pheakdey and Kong Dara talk about their art at Sa Sa Art Projects. SA SA ART

“Using images of tadpoles and organic forms as symbols of growth, change, and flow, these drawings map my personal life experience as I explore and evolve while meeting new people and friends,” said Dara.

Dara, who also works as a residency coordinator at the gallery, said he wants to reflect on the growth of life, struggles, love, relationships, social development, and the LGBT+ community.

The clay sculptures of his installation show the tadpole shapes more vividly, as they move fluidly and collectively.

“The unfired clay suggests the instability, fragility, and changeability of soil and life,” he added.

Dara has appeared in many exhibitions at Cambodian and international venues including in Thailand, Vietnam and New York.

Khandha is the title of a work by artist and Buddhist monk Soung Pheakdey. Pheakdey, 27, has created human forms with visible internal organs.

He graduated from the RUFA, majoring in painting.

His six sculptures are steel skeletons, enveloped with mats, and sewn together with seams made of orange monk’s robes.

He explained that he had opened some of the sculptures, allowing people to see the rusty interior of the skeletons and its bodily cavities.

“The organs, including the stomach, lungs, heart, and liver, all play a vital role in supporting the body and are closely related to the natural environment around us,” he said.

“Together with these sculptures, the artist also added a dried tree branch,” said manager Chanveasan.

“Through this work, we see fragments of the human body and nature decaying. I believe the artist wants to warn us of the imbalance of the ecology and the impermanence of life that humans are part of,” she added.

“The artists in Rebuild examine the cycle of life, nature, and what humans create, as well as the problems they bring with them: the often-changing urban identity, the resilience and fragility of mental health, the process of building life experiences, and the imbalance and instability of life,” said Chanveasna.

“Through all these works, the artists make us question what kind of images we want to rebuild, for our psyche, way of life, living environment, and the ecosystem,” she added.

Rebuild opened on March 2 and runs until May 17 at Sa Sa Art Projects St 350, Phnom Penh.


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