You have probably been aching to see some art ever since you read our feature about the youth art scene in issue 38, and if so you are in luck my buddies because we have scoped out the city and found the newest exhibitions going on around town. Here’s a quick review of creative works on display around Phnom Penh. We hope you will check them out for yourself.
Like most university students, my stress level has been rising recently along with the mountain of assignments that have been piling up, and come the end of last week, I needed to do something to get my mind off school. I called up my friend and we decided to relieve our stress with a Saturday afternoon touring a couple of our favorite art galleries.
The first artist we checked out was Sou Sophy, whose series or portraits called Sra Nge (a type of rice with seeds that are smaller and harder than normal rice) is currently showing at the SaSa gallery in front of Baitong restaurant (for more info visit sasaart.info). I had no idea why she would choose such a name, and I couldn’t help but satiate my curiosity and go to figure it out.
As soon as we walked in we knew we were in for a treat. “Wow, that is amazing,” were the words that spilled out of my mouth. The carefully painted faces of about 15 women, all with intense, emotive expressions, immediately pulled us in to carefully consider the images in from of us.
Fortunately we were really able to spend some time and focus on the work since it was just after lunch and we had the place to ourselves. We noticed a piece of paper that explained the name of the series of paintings and were fascinated with what it said. Sra Nge is not only smaller and harder than normal rice, it is sweeter when cooked, but for the sake of productivity, it has been removed from Cambodia’s rice fields. The metaphor that Sou Sophy conveys with her finely crafted portraits, each evoking a different emotion, is that every woman has unique qualities and characteristics that are valuable and shouldn’t be thrown away.
After a while my friend complained of a headache brought on by the intense consideration the paintings inspired. “How did she come up with the idea to use rice straw and sugar cane as the surface to make portraits like these,” was one of the many questions left unanswered as we walked out of the gallery. While we wanted to know more, we knew enough to confidently remark that the work we had just seen was done by a brilliant and hardworking Cambodian woman, and that made us happy.
Our second stop was Java Café and Gallery, where a photo exhibition called Remnants of Bokor and Kep, by American fine art photographer Eric Alan Pritchard, is one week into a five week run. We were rather excited, given his reputation but, frankly, the photographs were hardly worthy of such high expectations. The 22 black and white photographs of abandoned homes in Kep and the famous Bokor Palace Casino on Bokor Mountain just seemed unspectacular, not like the work of an award winning artist. We agreed that anyone with an expensive camera and some training could have produced a similar result, but we are both passionate about photography so perhaps we were overly critical.
While we weren’t thrilled with the exhibit, we collected some ideas that we can incorporate into our own work, and it is always exciting to see things from another person’s perspective. As always on these types of expeditions, spending an enjoyable afternoon with my friends was the highlight of the experience. We parted ways wishing that there were more gallery’s to visit, but agreed to do it again as soon as we heard of an interesting exhibit.
As always, we’ll let you know about it as well. Until then check out Sasa and Java galleries for yourself and enjoy forming your own opinions of people’s attempts to capture their perspective of our Kingdom.