A work by self-taught Svay Ken.
The December 9 grand kick-off of the Visual Arts Open (VAO) at New Art Gallery in
Phnom Penh is intended to give contemporary Cambodian artists a rare chance to expose
their work to the public.
The exhibitions are scheduled to be held simultaneously at eight Phnom Penh venues
throughout December and will feature the wide-ranging work of 19 artists - all of
whom work and live in Cambodia.
The exhibitions were funded by a July auction in which curators and VAO organizers
Linda Saphan and Sopheap Pich-who named their organization Saklapel after the Cambodian
slang for the visual arts "Selapak" - helped raise $3,440 for the exhibition.
Saphan said the VAO is an attempt to strengthen artistic production and provide a
more dynamic contemporary art scene in a country known almost solely for its traditional
arts. She also expressed excitement about the artistic talent in Cambodia.
One artist, Svay Ken, began painting in his sixties and sold his early works to tourists.
He has evolved into an internationally renowned artist.
"What is so inspirational for us is having met a well-known and self-taught
artist like Svay Ken," said Saphan. "His work embodies very special qualities."
The exhibition will also feature modern artists such as Hen Sophal, known for his
melancholic paintings of nighttime Phnom Penh, and Chhoeun Rithy, who specializes
in dilapidated buildings that have the unfortunate tendency of completely collapsing
before his paintings are finished.
Also present will be the work of Suos Sodavy who is returning to Cambodia after spending
10 years in Hungary studying painting.
The artists have set prices of the art works that range from $3.50 to $1,200 and
a 44-page catalogue will be available in the eight exhibition spots.