It might be a stretch to call the arts scene in Cambodia vibrant, but Cambodians are becoming more interested and involved in arts every year, and with the help of a number of galleries around the city there is more attention being paid to Cambodian artists than there has been since the 1960s. While many of the art galleries are small, with some doubling as cafés and restaurants, there are a group of committed artists in the city who are sharing their ideas and works with the world. Here are four places where you can find them.
Java Café & Gallery: The exhibitions currently on display at Java Café provide an excellent example of the kind of Cambodia-centric work that is featured at the two-floor café and art gallery. Even better, both exhibitions feature work by young Cambodian artists. Upstairs you can see an exhibition called “Hair”by Kvay Samnang, who is a member of Steiv Salapak, which works out of the artist-run Sasa Gallery in Phnom Penh. The exhibition features sculptures made of hair from roadside barbers in the city. Downstairs you can see paintings by Oeur Sokunthevy, a young Cambodian woman who is living abroad. The paintings are snapshots from the young woman’s childhood rendered in a Pablo Picasso-like style of distorted shapes and skewed angles.
Sasa Gallery: The Sasa Gallery is the artistic headquarters of the group of young artists who call themselves Steiv Salapak. The favoured medium for the group is photography, but members experiment with a variety of styles and occasionally venture into other mediums. Steiv Salapak participated in a photography exhibit at Sasa that was part of the Reawakening of the Golden Age of Cambodian Cinema. Sasa Gallery displays a number of photographs by members of the group, along with drawings and other works of art related the artistic themes.
French Cultural Centre (CCF): Almost undoubtedly the city’s most profound foreign promoter of arts in Cambodia, CCF has a steady rotation of exhibitions featuring artists from Cambodia and all over the world. CCF has also spearheaded citywide events such as Photo Phnom Penh and Danzen Roam (see page 8), which have brought together artists from all over Cambodia to celebrate their creative achievements. In the coming months, CCF will feature a number of young Cambodian artists. On March 18 you can attend the opening of an exhibition by Sonleuk Thmey, a group of five young visual artists who have become the directors of a studio for graphics, illustration and publishing in Battambang.