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Cartoons capture countryside

Cartoons capture countryside

B OLD outlines, bright colors and a joyous depiction of Cambodia's people and countryside characterize the paintings of Canadian artist Stephane Delapree.

Twenty of his recent oil paintings on rice-paper are on exhibition until Dec 6 at New Art Gallery, No 20, Street 9.

A former cartoonist, 38-year-old Delapree paints strong black outlines with a comic-book look combined with an innocent, primitive style.

"I own a cartoon magazine, Bambou, which is humorous and satirical," he explained. "It has appeared monthly in Quebec since 1986." He was also a founding member of the Society of Creators and Friends of the Comic Strip in Canada.

Delapree came here to do drawings of the Constitution for Licadho, the human rights organization.

His direct, accessible style made his educational drawings in demand with other organizations, including Unicef.

The immediacy and humor of cartoon style, with its universal appeal, makes it a valuable tool for communication in a country dealing with illiteracy.

Light-heartedness is the main ingredient of many pictures, such as four passengers waving on a motorcycle, or smiling monks brandishing yellow umbrellas, and fishermen emerging from a vibrant blue sea in colorful clothes.

A shapely lady, resplendent in red, balances a basket of luscious fruit on her head and, with a hand on her hip, looks as though she is dancing the lambada.

There is a festive flamboyance in the pictures which could be Caribbean or Mediterranean. "But the fisherman is wearing a Cambodian krama," protested Delapree.

Crudely-outlined black bulls canter through several pictures, as though en route to a Spanish bullfight, with Chagall-like figures prancing on their backs. "Chagall was related to my family," he said of the painter. "I met him when I was a child, and he gave a number of pictures to us."

A black horse, another rarity in the Cambodian countryside, dominates another picture, with a rider clinging to the mane.

"That's Lady Godiva," explained Delapree. Sensitive to Cambodian modesty, he had outlined discreet clothing on the audacious lady rather than leave her naked, as she was in the legend.

Keng Vuthy, a doctor from the Calmette Hospital, was not so keen on the bulls and horses.

"But I like the paintings of peasants," he said. "They illustrate the life and colors of the countryside so well.

"My favorites are the ones of monks. But I won't be buying any because I cannot afford them."

Fourteen of the paintings sold on the opening night, with prices averaging $200.

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