Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New exhibition has theme of evolution at its core

New exhibition has theme of evolution at its core

Artist Karen Hartmann, who has been in Cambodia for the last six years and will be exhibiting her work beginning tonight at Chinese House. Photo supplied/Karl Laframboise
Artist Karen Hartmann, who has been in Cambodia for the last six years and will be exhibiting her work beginning tonight at Chinese House. Photo supplied/Karl Laframboise

New exhibition has theme of evolution at its core

Karen Hartmann’s new exhibition, Changing Paradigms, is all about evolution.

“It’s something new, radically new,” says Hartmann, describing her shift from portraiture to abstract paintings. The evolution is both thematic and technical, representing a break from her previous work.

Her path to becoming an artist began in childhood with her father, whose sketches she would observe, and who encouraged her creativity.

“We must have been drawing one day, and he saw something [in us] four of his children,” she says. “And he got us books, and we sat at the kitchen table and sketched little men – stick figures. That’s where it started.”

Although she has spent six years in Cambodia, her relationship with the country goes back more than a decade, when she and her husband started learning Khmer while still in the United States. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, they were hoping to preach and study the Bible with Cambodians, and came to the country to “support the local congregation”. Previously, she was a furniture painter in New York City for eight years.

In Cambodia, she has devoted herself to her painting, and will be exhibiting 42 of her pieces at Chinese House beginning today.

Some of the works are portraits, while others, unusually for her, are abstract. Of particular significance to her are her portraits of Cambodian women, such as Cool Drink and Stung Sanker.

Karen Hartmann’s Cool Drink, part of the Changing Paradigms exhibition. Photo supplied
Karen Hartmann’s Cool Drink, part of the Changing Paradigms exhibition. Photo supplied

“The portraits that I’ve done, I remember the people. I remember the day, what they were doing at the time, the eyes – I’m very focused on getting the feeling that comes out of the eyes,” she says.

In her works, influences from artists across different periods and movements are evident.

She counts John Singer Sargent – a famous American portrait artist from the early 20th century – and Pablo Picasso among her influences. Then there is Cambodia, which is her main source of creative inspiration.

“I just get so much inspiration from being here,” she says. “Colour, the heat – and the people.”

While she doesn’t see her work as being “so deeply philosophical”, Hartmann still hopes that her work resonates.

“I enjoy watching people when they look at my work and hear their comments,” she says.

“I never tell people what to see, what to do. It either evokes something – it opens a window, opens a door for them – that’s what I want to do, just be somebody who opens up a new thought for people.”

Changing Paradigms opens tonight at 6pm at Chinese House and will be on display until February 14. There will complementary beer, wine and canapés early in the night, and a dinner upstairs for $28, with reservations recommended.

MOST VIEWED

  • CNRP activists arrested for ‘plotting insecurity’

    Three activists for the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have been sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court after they were arrested for their alleged involvement in an overseas-organised plot to mobilise demonstrations and cause insecurity. National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said the

  • ‘Support of CNRP return online will lead to arrest’

    Anyone posting messages supporting the return of Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on social media will be arrested, the Ministry of Interior announced on Tuesday. Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told The Post on Monday that authorities

  • Rainsy charged with ‘insulting the King’

    Ministries and state institutions have condemned Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), for allegedly insulting His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni. The condemnation came in the wake of Rainsy’s claim on Thursday during an interview with Radio

  • CNRP budget announced for soldiers who defect

    The permanent committee of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) said it has a budget for soldiers who defect from Prime Minister Hun Sen when “acting president” Sam Rainsy returns on November 9. An analyst said such an action amounted to forming a coup,