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MY PHNOM PENH

Syahrulfikri Salleh 38, graphic designer
Syahrulfikri Salleh 38, graphic designer.

MY PHNOM PENH

Originally from Malaysia, globetrotting creative Syahrulfikri Salleh (also known as Ajin) has been based in Phnom Penh for the past seven months, and chronicles his artistic discoveries online through his blog Everyday, Everywhere

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Boeung Kak Community Eli Meixler

Boeung Kak Community
Boeung Kak isn’t a gallery space, but it’s a real artistic community. When they had their first art open day in October, I was new in the city and wanted to meet people, so I went to check it out, and they asked me to do a drawing. It said “be curious like a child” next to a painting of a child with four eyes, painted on the side of a building. It’s mostly travellers working up there – the two girls who run it use Facebook to look for artists who are travelling in Southeast Asia, and invite them to come here. The artists will do a few projects and then leave again. Having all these people passing through exposes lots of different art to the locals. I think it’s the reason that there are a lot of kids doing graffiti now.

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KlapYaHandz

KlapYaHandz
I like the KlapYaHandz label not just because of the music but because of the spirit and what they want to achieve. I know there are a few other artists here, not to name names, who were born somewhere else and came here to get back to their roots, but they are really commercial. Maybe I just feel that way because I’m an outsider, but it seems with some of them like they’re not doing it for anyone else, they’re not doing anything that involves local kids, they’re just using the culture to make more money. KlapYaHandz is different because the founder Sok Visal has this vision. He doesn’t want to show off his work. He’s a producer; he pushes other people. Young kids need to have a mentor to look up to, and with Visal, you can see they’re really pumped to sing and dance. It’s not just for the show.

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Triangular architecture Kimberley McCosker

Triangular architecture
I really like Vann Molyvann’s work. It’s got this modern, post-Soviet feel. It’s very strong, geometrical and not boastful – there’s not much decoration or showing off in it. Triangles are the main geometric element in his designs. I think his use of the shape is based on traditional Khmer buildings, but he has adapted it and made it more modern. It looks really strong. In my work now, I actually try to use aspects of his shapes and style as inspiration. I remember when I saw that the people organising the Urban Art Festival used things from Cambodian culture in their work, like the apsara hands, I didn’t like it at first. I thought: you’re not Cambodian, why are you using this? But now I understand their approach – it’s about showing local kids that they can use Cambodian culture to make modern art.

The Gulai
There’s this really great restaurant called The Gulai on Street 144 where it’s only $6 for an all you can eat buffet. They change the menu all the time but often its chicken and fish, usually spicy and with a lot of gravy. It’s all very Malaysian: the chef and the people who work there are Malaysian, and the people who go there, too. It’s nice, because you don’t really see Malaysians around, right? I’m not really active in the community, although there are actually five of us from Malaysia in my office, because our boss is Malaysian.

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Sketch Circle Kimberley McCosker

Sketch Circle
Sketch Circle is a really simple set up: we get together on Wednesday evenings at someone’s house to draw, to meet people, and to get rid of work stress. I’ve been here for seven months and already I feel like I’m stuck in my ways – I’m tired during the week, and on the weekend I’m busy. I thought I should find a place in my schedule for my own creative work. Sketch Circle is like an art therapy session, but hopefully it’ll produce something more in the long term. I’d like it if the members came up with some ideas for things we could do together as a group. You know, the Cambodian Urban Arts festival was just two guys organising things through Facebook, and it turned into them doing a whole festival. I want to maybe make a colouring book. I need to see who the regulars are at Sketch Circle, and then we’ll start to talk.

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