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The slow changing face of Khmer art

The slow changing face of Khmer art

A new breed of Khmer artist is struggling to break 80 years of "traditional"

wisdom that Khmer art should follow in the image of Angkor. Such teachings were perpetuated,

if not begun, by French colonialists, personified by George Groslier from 1918.

Groslier spent many years photographing Khmer art in both the National Museum and

around the countryside. "In this way," wrote Groslier in 1931, "the

Museum is little by little enveloping Cambodia and has allowed the exploitation of

riches which its walls cannot contain."

From Jan 31, Groslier's photos - which were rediscovered after Pol Pot's Democratic

Kampuchea regime was ousted in 1979 - will be shown at an 80th anniversary exhibition

at the Faculty of Plastic Arts.

The prints (like the artisan above top) were deliberately set up to show Khmer artists

and art as the French believed they should be: silversmiths, painters and others

working on apsaras, Angkorian figures and similar "Khmer" motifs.

But the exhibition, which continues through to Feb 2, will also show contemporary

works - such as Suos Sodavy's oil painting, entitled Nude study 1993: No 4.

The works of Sodavy, along with Heng Mony Phal, Phy Chan Tan and others, show wide

international influences. Sodavy, for instance, lived for nine years in Hungary from

1985, the last five spent studying at the Department of Painting of the Hungarian

Academy of Fine Arts.

Sodavy, now a professor at the Faculty, along with other young artists with experience

in Poland and the former USSR, is even today working within a curriculum still tending

toward "traditional painting."

"As a whole, the exhibition presents the public with the opportunity to survey

what is now almost a century of art and art education in Cambodia," say co-sponsors

the Ministry of Culture and UNESCO. "The Faculty of Plastic Arts hopes to use

this historical survey as a framework for considering the possibilities for Cambodia's

visual arts in the future."

Opening reception: Saturday, Jan 31st 3:00 - 5:30pm at the Faculty of Plastic Arts

located just north of the Royal Palace. Viewing Sundays (2-5pm), Monday to Saturday

(8-11am and 2-5pm).

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