Exhibitions show different aspects of Cambodian art

Exhibitions show different aspects of Cambodian art


While 'Works in Progress' showcases the work of four young

photographers, ‘Women' marks You Khin's first exhibition of paintings

in Cambodia

Photo by: Lucy Kinder

You Khin sits in front of his paintings.

Two very different exhibitions will open at Phnom Penh's French Cultural Centre today. "Works in Progress" showcases the work of four Khmer photographers, and "Women" marks You Khin's debut exhibition in Cambodia.

You Khin, who returned to Cambodia in 2004 after 26 years in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, says that he chooses to paint women because they are often oppressed and left without a voice.

"I have travelled around three continents and in all the places I have been to, I have seen that women have a lower status than men. It is universal," he said.

At 62 years of age, the artist says that he wants to document the sadness that he sees when he sometimes looks at women.

"I look into the inside of the mind of the woman and ask why she is not smiling, and I try to illustrate this idea in my paintings," he said.

However, Yet Khin also tries to show that women can liberate themselves from their oppression.

"I try to use symbols of liberty in my paintings. Initially I chose the bird as a symbol of liberty, and then I chose string as a symbol," he said.

The artist's use of string is also apparent in his sculptures, which he began working on following his return to Cambodia. And interestingly he uses decaying wood and string to ‘sew' his sculptures together.

"The word string comes from the Sanskrit word sutra, which means sew together, so I bind my sculptures with string," he said.

Recognising the importance of contemporary art, You Khin hopes that Cambodians will keep an open mind while viewing his art.

"My world is modern, and I don't think that many Cambodians understand my art. But this is the beginning," he said. "I want people to come to my show, even if they don't understand it. I want them to ask questions about my work rather than be against it simply because it is different," he said.

Work in progress

"Works in Progress" showcases the work of four young Cambodian photographers who are preparing for this year's PhotoPhnomPenh Festival.

The exhibition is a result of the partnership between the French Cultural Centre and Melon Rouge, a photo agency in Phnom Penh.

Thierry Merre, from Melon Rouge, who instructed the photographer in a series of workshops of which the exhibition is a product,  explains that the agency aims to support photographers who are neither novices nor professionals.

"We wanted to work with Khmer photographers who were in a ‘middle stage' of their development. Our support was to be a long-term commitment; we didn't [just] want to work with people for a week or a month," he said.

The project has taken a year, and the works that are presented are a diverse representation of Cambodian photography.

Many of the works showcased are metaphorical works with a universal meaning.

Merre emphasises the importance of ‘fine art' photography.

"All four photographers have come out with original works. They choose their own direction, and they have now arrived at a place where you can say that they are photographic artists," he said.


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