C ontemporary art arrived in Phnom Penh on Jan. 18 with the opening of the New
Art Gallery which aims to promote and develop Cambodian talent.
city's first commercial gallery has work from Thai watercolorist Somboon
Phuangdorkmai. She has worked in Phuket and Bangkok and is showing 18 paintings
under the title "Waves."
Her work can be divided into three categories.
One series is based upon waves and sea spray. In these, the motion of the waves
becomes fixed and tends towards abstraction and pattern.
give a sense of movement and also suggest realistic and abstract representation.
There are subtle modulations of color from dark to light. The pastel colors she
chooses range from green to brown and from blue to white.
features a second type of watercolor which is more structured and has a solid
feel of gardens and vegetation. But the wave series is particularly impressive
in showing an intriguing choice of subject for the experiment of subtle
development of tone.
In addition, there are four sketchbooks in which
the pen drawings are finely done. The quick sketches of animals, in particular
those done with a minimum of detail and with obvious spontaneity, give a great
sense of volume and vitality. Especially attractive are ones of chickens and
cats. They have a distinctive charm and humor.
There are also
well-observed sketches of people sitting on a beach and children playing on the
ground. Recent ones depict Somboon's arrival at Pochentong airport and first
impressions of Cambodia.
Arriving at the gallery on Street 9, she
immediately starting sketching the fruit vendors and cyclo drivers around the
Kap Ko market next door. When they later wandered into the open gallery they
were fascinated to see themselves in the pictures.
Somboon has been
exhibiting her work in Bangkok since 1977 and had a show in Denmark in 1988.
Otherwise, she has seldom exhibited abroad and coming to Cambodia is a new
"I am looking forward to doing sketches around Angkor Wat,"
she said. She will spend a few days there before leaving the country at the
beginning of February. It will be interesting to see the results of her work at
Angkor in contrast to the repetitive paintings of the site currently available.
Canadian Ed Fitzgerald, who runs the gallery with Khmer partner Kim Seng
Rity, hopes to encourage Khmer artists to produce more original paintings than
they do at present.
He believes the anticipated influx of foreign
tourists and travelers will sustain an art market.