Acclaimed Cambodian artist Em Riem’s fortunes have risen in tandem with a growing international appreciation for the Kingdom’s art.
2012 has already rewarded the painter and sculptor with a number of feathers in his cap.
In the last six months, the 35-year-old conducted a well-received live art collaboration with Israel’s Broken Fingaz graffiti crew, sold four artworks at hefty prices to international buyers at an auction organised by Christie’s, and won an invitation to represent Cambodia at a exhibition of Indian and ASEAN artists in Darjeeling.
Tonight Em Riem capitalises on his recent successes with the launch of Tenderness, his latest solo exhibition, to be unveiled at his gallery space on Street 178.
Themed around the intimacy and warmth that comes from family life, the artist has sought to capture and portray Cambodian people in moments of unassuming affection.
His latest collection of works demonstrate a mix of his eclecticism, his fondness for cultural tradition, and continuity with his recent visual art projects.
Acrylic paint on burlap, a perennial favourite of their creator, depict family portraits, rendered in a manner resembling grainy black and white photographs.
Other works, using oil paints and bold primary colours, incorporate the same subjects through the prism of street art.
Based on the stories of people known to Em Riem from around Phnom Penh, the prints depict family life before the upheavals of 1975.
While the Khmer Rouge era has been a constant trope in the artist’s works, here he yearns to make a broader point about the loss of cultural, fashion and aesthetic traditions in the time since.
“This is what I want to show the Cambodian people now,” says Em Riem.
“The young generation now, they spend so much on hairdressing, for such an unnatural style, the money some of them spend on clothes, how they adorn themselves with so many flowers… I want to show them the Khmer style from before, and how simple and beautiful it was.
“There are so many TV shows, films and trends coming in from foreigners. No one is thinking about Cambodia. I want to show people that we need to keep Cambodian culture, and to do that they need to help develop Cambodian culture themselves.”
Also on display will be a series of sculptures designed by Em Riem, based around the theme of femininity.
Tenderness will open at X-Em Design La Galerie, #13d St 178, tomorrow night at 6:30pm.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sean Gleeson at [email protected]