For most married couples it’s difficult enough keeping the lines of communication open at the best of times, let alone while collaborating on a project together, but Phin Sophorn, 26, and her husband, Mao Soviet, 31, former students at Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) in Battambang city, have done just that.
“It took us a long time, up to four months, to do our first joint painting because my wife and I kept misunderstanding each other. For instance, I painted one picture, but then my wife erased it and painted another picture. I chose a dark colour, but my wife preferred a lighter colour,” Mao Soviet says.
After they had completed their first painting together, the two artists found it easier to collaborate on further works because they could now understand each other’s feelings much better than before. Mao Soviet let his wife paint 50 to 70 per cent of their collaborations and, as he now understood what she was feeling, he finished them off.
The couple are showing the fruits of their labours – seven sculptures, 19 paintings and one art installation – at the Top Art Gallery in Phnom Penh in an exhibition entitled Man and Wife from December 15 till the end of January. Three of the works on show are man-wife collaborations.
Through their artworks, the couple wants to reveal the reality of living together in marriage. Living together before marriage is against Cambodian tradition, but Phin Sophorn and Mao Soviet were together for six years before they got hitched.
Before they married last March, they faced criticism from people, especially their neighbours.
“Our neighbours always criticised us and spread rumours about us. The difficulties we faced in our joint paintings and the feelings around them are the same as the feelings after criticism from society,” Mao Soviet says.
Phin Sophorn said her parents didn’t allow her to stay with her husband at the beginning, but later on they didn’t have a problem this because they saw how much Mao Soviet loved her.
“In our society, we see some couples break up a short while after they get married. This is the problem because they don’t understand each other well. So to follow our tradition doesn’t really help us. We decided to live together before marriage and tried to understand each other. Now we make a happy family together,” she says.
Phin Sophorn doesn’t want to do more joint paintings after the three she has collaborated on with her husband. She feels that their styles have begun to influence each other.
“Each person has different feelings. After painting together, I felt we were copying each other’s style. So I want this exhibition to be our first and last joint paintings. I don’t want his style to influence mine,” Phin Sophorn says.
Phin Sophorn sometimes works as a painting teacher at PPS. The couple own Make Maek Art Space, a gallery in their home town, Battambang, where they show their work.
“We don’t expect that art can be a good business in Cambodia, because people aren’t really interested in it. But I hope the exhibition will help more people understand about artwork,” Phin Sophorn says.
Man and Wife opens at 6:30pm tomorrow at the Top Art Gallery, on the second floor, above the Riverhouse Lounge, at #155 E2, Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh) and will run until the end of January.