Mixed media blends nature, science and art as activism

Mixed media blends nature, science and art as activism


Two Cambodian artists hope their works will prompt people to question their priorities by focusing on humankind’s negative impact on the environment

No artist should only follow the minds and tastes of their audience.

Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
The Tornado, an installation by Meas Sokhorn, uses barbed wire and wood to conjure up a "tornado of rage and violence that lays waste to everything in its path".

The vastly different worlds of the arts and mechanics do not, at first, seem likely to mix well.

Yet Cambodian artist Srey Bandol, also the programme director of Phare Ponleu Selpak organisation in Battambang province, has recently proved that these two worlds do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Having spent five months creating 20 complex pictures, with the aim of alerting people to humanity's impact on the environment and nature, Srey Bandol said he hoped his creations can do more than blend wildly different media.

Srey Bandol begins with drawings in pencil and paint, often containing a theme of water. Then he sets electric wiring or chunks of circuit board on the drawing itself, to represent science and the development of the world we live in.

The pictures, which are on exhibit at Java Cafe and Gallery through August 30, have such diverse titles as The Storm, Airplane, After Burn, The Car, Shopping and Chocolate.

The works are exhibited alongside a large-scale sculpture and text installation by Royal University of Fine Arts graduate Meas Sokhorn, who in 2008 was selected as a finalist in the Signature Art Prize hosted by the Singapore Art Museum.

Srey Bandol says his ideas stem from his observation of the world around him. A staunch environmentalist, he said he feels there is too much harm being done by problems such as greenhouse gases.

"The overall theme is to create the idea of preserving the environment through scientific development," he said.

"I want to inform people about the advantages of science. It can help a great deal by modernising and developing the world. Yet on the other hand, science can also provide a lot of problems, so I hope to show how we can develop a balance between nature and science," Srey Bandol explained.

It is quite rare for the contemporary Cambodian to take an interest in art, but Bandol says he has "seen many university students who are interested in those kinds of pictures. Maybe their higher education plays a big part in that, but it is very encouraging".

Many foreign visitors are also taking an interest in Srey Bandol's works.

The striking imagery and powerful sentiment have clearly struck a chord with some tourists, and it has not been uncommon for the artist to sell his works for anything from US$90 to $800.

But despite the lucrative nature of creating and selling art, Srey Bandol says he will always stay true to his principles.

"Artists must strive to invent something new for their audiences, but they also have to be able to interpret their purposes of creativity," he said.
"No artist should only follow the minds and tastes of their audience."

Moreover, Srey Bandol encourages other artists to use their talents to develop the Cambodian arts scene, as is happening in many nearby countries.

He also hopes his pictures will help people pay more attention to environmental issues and plans to exhibit his pictures in Siem Reap to alert people there to the dangers of climate change in the future.

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