Lead Image: Kompoan and the French Model by Chan Dany
In the 1960s, an abundance of art, music & film emerging from the kingdom helped earn Phnom Penh the nickname “Pearl of Asia”. 40 years after the brutal genocide that ended the lives of 90% of Cambodian artists, exciting developments in the local art scene are finally restoring the city to its former glory.
That’s not to say that 2020 wasn’t a challenging year for artists in Cambodia. Most local exhibitions and festivals were cancelled, as well as a number of international projects and artist residencies. Many galleries across the country have had to shut their doors, with some opting to relocate to Phnom Penh. Despite these challenges, the art scene in Phnom Penh has never been so vibrant, boasting 16 new exhibitions, featuring around 100 artists from over 20 countries, to kick off 2021.
SILAPAK TROTCHAEK PNEIK (Soft Opening)
YK Art House
Chan Dany | Chea Sereyroth | Chhim Sothy | Heng Ravuth | Khiev Kanel | Pen Robit | Sao Sreymao | Srey Bandaul | Svay Ken (KH)
The long-anticipated Silapak Trotchaek Pneik (STP) Gallery hosts its soft opening and debut exhibition on February 18th. A part community, part commercial gallery, it’s founded and operated by professional Khmer curators and artists who share the belief that “art is one of the essential pillars of sustainable, educational, social, and economic development for Cambodia.”
Founder Yean Reaksmey, a local art historian and curator has carefully selected nine of Cambodia’s most profound and influential artists. This includes the work of Svay Ken, widely considered the grandfather of contemporary Cambodian art, who passed away in 2008. Multidisciplinary, award-winning artist Sao Sreymao will exhibit her signature style multimedia artworks, blending photography and sketching. Chan Dany, known for his pencil shaving sculptures, will exhibit an exciting new style of artworks, juxtaposing traditional Khmer characters with modern settings. All exhibiting artists are internationally renowned and have been pivotal in founding the contemporary art scene in Cambodia.
Reaksmay explains that the gallery’s name combines the Khmer word for art (silapak), and the name of a defunct art collective (Trotchaek Pneik), literally meaning “cool eye.” The double-entendre of the name Silapak Trotchaek Pneik, “cool eye art,” translates as both “beautiful art” or “art that pleases the eyes.” It aims to showcase, promote, and support works marked by originality and experimentation in diverse mediums and themes, and, Reaksmay says, will “make quality and excellence in the practice and appreciation of contemporary art its core driver”.
The gallery will be open to the public by appointment until the end of April.
February 18th – March | #13A, St 830
Rosewood X Tribe Gallery
Findac (IRL) | Pure evil (UK) | Carne Griffiths (UK) | Nak Noy (KH) | Kak Sok Phirom (KH) | Chatchai (TH) | Jinx Davis (USA) | Din Teangborin (KH) | Eve (UK) | Hour Soben (KH)
Tribe Urban Art Gallery have teamed up with Rosewood Phnom Penh to bring you an eclectic selection of international and local artists, unified under the the theme of “MASKerade”. The exhibition explores the history of masks across cultures and why this remains poignant in contemporary society.
10 visual artists from various cultures and disciplines are exhibiting original paintings, photography and limited edition prints. That includes local master painter Din Teangborin, who is known for his abstract and minimalist compositions of Khmer Apsara dancers. Acclaimed urban artist Pure Evil is exhibiting Krink & spray canvases inspired by the film Bladerunner. Irish native FinDAC build on his “Apsara Warrior” series, originally created at Phare Ponlue Selapak and subsequently at Tribe Gallery Siem Reap.
Meanwhile, emerging young Khmer artist Nak Noy, has created an enchanting selection of ink and watercolour artworks in his signature surrealist, almost psychedelic style. Photographer Kak Sok Phirom exhibits a unique and authentic insight into contemporary Khmer life, describing his work as “Cambodia through the eyes of a Cambodian”. (If you’re interested in learning more about Phirom’s photography, you can also sign up to his Artist Talk at Rosewood on February 27th).
January – May | #66 Vattanac Capital, Monivong Blvd. You can also buy works online at Tribe Cambodia
Tytaart (KH) | Don Virao (FR) | JB Carroro (FR)
Sra’Art is hosting a multimedia group exhibition in photography, painting & design. Three distinctly different artists have come together, collectively exploring the parameters of light and darkness, evoking themes of consciousness, imagination and the nature of life. It featuring portraits by local photographer Tyta Buth, compositions that fuse photography and typography by French designer John Baptiste Carraro, and abstract and figurative paintings by Don Virao. The curators describe it as “a journey of white to black” illuminating “the eternal and non-temporal beauty of monochromatic art.”
Jan 9 – Feb 27 | #7 Sothearos Blvd, Daun Penh. Original artworks and photography available for sale online at Sra’Art Gallery
The Gallery by Sofitel
Dennis Laurent (FR)
French artist Denis Laurent presents a collection of paintings inspired by traditional Khmer sculptures and statues from Ratanakiri province. Laurent first exhibited in Cambodia in 1998; his style falls somewhere between abstract and cubist, with fauvist colour use.
February – April | #26 Sothearos Blvd, Tonle Bassac. Artworks for sale online from The Gallery
ORIGINS & BECOMING
Plantation Urban Resort
Adana Mam Legros (FR/KH)
Cambodian-French artist and activist Adana exhibits a small selection of four paintings to mark the opening of The Lounge at Plantation Urban Resort & Hotel. Adana uses her art to create dialogue around cultural themes of parenthood, femininity and masculinity, honesty and vulnerability, and empathy and compassion. Each artworks is accompanied by insightful treatise from renowned psychologists and philosophers, and from Adana herself.
“For the ‘I’ to exist, the gaze of the Other is needed. Our being is always inter-being,” says Adana of her Empathy & Compassion composition. “The individualism and consumerism woven into our social fabric traps our modern existence into an egoistical bubble. The obsession with ourselves creates a cycle of chronic suffering and apathy to others. Empathy is an innate capability, but can only be developed if the environment allows it.”
February – April | #28 St. 184, Daun Penh
Java Creative Cafe
Chhan Dina (KH)
Migration is a new body of work by Chhan Dina that draws our attention to the world of birds, a subject that she finds endlessly fascinating. Cranes, finches and sparrows, in varied tones of ink and acrylic, emerge from whites backgrounds, and Dina’s instantly recognisable style captures their dynamic energy, with paint and ink splashed and dripped across the canvases.
For this series, Dina has focused on the migration of birds and their response to their environment. She notes that since the start of the global pandemic there have been increased numbers of birds in places that are normally populated by people, with unusual sightings in Phnom Penh and elsewhere around the world. “For the artist, this is a moment to reflect on our relationship with birds and nature. To consider how as a modern and urbanized society we can live cooperatively with our environment,” says curator Dana Langois.
January – March | #20A St 337, Toul Kork. For original artworks, please contact Java Creative Cafe or www.artistdina.com
PORTRAITS OF IKIGAI
Shunsuke Miyatake (JP)
Portraits of IKIGAI will be the debut solo exhibition for Japanese photographer, Shunsuke Miyatake.
As Miyatake puts it: “the purpose of this project is to collect the stories of everyday people that cannot be found on the Internet. To showcase those stories and inspire other lives in the world. “What is your purpose in life? / What really enriches your life? No matter how many Google searches you do or how many Facebook connections you make, you won’t find the answer to this question. Because the answers only exist within you.”
Miyatake has been capturing images of daily life in Cambodia since 2016. The term “IKIGAI” is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”, and refers to creating a balanced understanding of distinct and separate elements of an individual’s life – the people, activities, careers and anything else that gives us meaning.
16th Feb – March | #47 st 178, Daun Penh
Andrew Hem (US/KH) | Bonnard (CA) | Bryan Beyung (CA/KH/CN) | FONKi (CA/KH/FR) | Imagine (NP) | Mauy (TH) | Maylee Keo (CA/KH) | Monk.e (CA) | Olivier Rielland (CA) | SBU (CA/FR) | Sheryo & The Yok (SG/AU) | Theo Vallier (FR) | Twoone (JP) | Yip Yew Chong (SG)
FT Gallery hosts its grand opening in conjunction with the three-year anniversary of the ArtSpace at Factory Phnom Penh. This exhibition features a range of contemporary urban artists who have been at the forefront of establishing the urban art scene in Cambodia. FT was founded by artists FONKi, known for his realist street art fused with kbach decorative elements, and Theo Vallier, known for his rusted metal paintings of historical Phnom Penh cityscapes. The exhibition promises to make viewers “travel through art, with visual flavours brought from all over the world,” despite the physical restrictions of Covid-19.
Each of the 14 urban artists have left their mark on the walls of Factory PP, which boast large murals by Sheryo & Yok, Mauy, TwoOne and Theo Vallier. A brand new, massive mural by FONKi now covers the facade of the 2200sqm ArtSpace. Smaller murals from Oliver Reiland, Maylee Keo and Bryan Beyung can be found hidden around the Factory. It’s also the first time that artwork by world-renowned American-Cambodian artist Andrew Hem have been exhibited in Phnom Penh
A selection of artwork will be auctioned to fundraise for the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap. Limited edition prints of the former entrance by Bryan Beyung, included in the exhibition, are also on sale.
January – February | ArtSpace, Factory Phnom Penh, #1159 NR2
HOPE ON THE HORIZON
AiR Gallery X Open Studio
Lauren Iida (USA) | Morn Chear (KH) | Channy Choeun (KH) | Van Chhovorn (KH) | Kanha Hul (KH) | Lavy Long (KH) | Hom Rith (KH) | Kim San (KH) | Ye Ranue (KH)
AiR Gallery kicks off its 2021 showcase with new works in oil, acrylic, hand-cut paper, digital photography, mixed media, textile, watercolour, and wood sculpture. It’s also the first time that all nine members of the Open Studio art collective have exhibited their work together.
“We believe in the power of art not only to enhance the lives of the artists we work with, but as an important platform to share the stories that define all of us,” says gallery founder, Lauren Iida.
Hope on the Horizon ends on February 17th, but some of the artwork will transfer to the the From Disability to Visibility launch event on Saturday 20th February (details below). You can also pay Open Studio a visit in Siem Reap, where they regularly host workshops and events including Kraum Chat Makers Market and Kanha Hul exhibition at Treeline Urban Resort this month.
January – February | AiR Gallery, Factory Phnom Penh, 1159 National Road 2
Sa Sa Art Projects
Khath Vanna | Kheng Soknet | Mao Sovanchandy | Pheng Sreysor | Veng Bunheng | Lun Nora | Chhen Vannak | En Atithchetha | Hean Rangsey
This group exhibition is showcasing students from Sa Sa Art Projects’ Contemporary & Documentary Photography Course (2020). Nine budding local photographers with diverse and distinct styles explore their personal experiences, documentation of nature and environmental issues, social structure, urbanisation, human connection, and questioning of their identity, to provoke discussion. An Artist Talk with Song Seakleng will follow on February 19th.
February 4th- 20th | #47 st 350, Tuol Sleng
THE ART OF SHARING
Chea Serey (KH) & Adana Mam Legros (FR/KH)
This one-off exhibition is a collaboration between two artists, one impressionist and one surrealist, born from their common reflection on the Covid-19 situation and its consequences. In a series of acrylic and watercolours, the artists share the same canvas, creating compositions that eloquently fuse their unique styles. The result is a beautiful partnership between inspiring activists and artists.
All proceeds from the exhibition and art sales will go to TPO, ICS-SP and HelpAge Cambodia. Most artworks have already been sold, but several have been reserved for auction later this month, so there’s still a chance to buy a canvas in support of a good cause.
January – February | #16 st 106, Wat Phnom. You can also view the full gallery exhibition online here.
Meas Sokhorn (KH)
Meas Sokhorn is a renowned painter, sculptor and installation artist who creates thought-provoking artworks inspired by social and cultural issues in the kingdom. Sokhorn is often commended for his bold approach to highlighting and creating awareness of sensitive topics like poverty and power dynamics. This eclectic and vibrant exhibition of figurative paintings marks Sokhorn’s return to the art scene after taking a break for the last few years.
February – March | #218, St. 184, Daun Penh
Scenes & Sceneries
Mil Chankrim (KH)
This is another collaboration between between Battambang artspace & gallery, Romcheik 5 and Pi-Pet-Pi Gallery (formerly Kampot Art Gallery). Mil Chankrim is an established artist, known for his expressive, surreal portraits that offer a commentary on the social impacts of poverty and injustice in Khmer culture. Scenes & Sceneries will explore snapshots of Cambodian landscapes, society and culture spanning from prehistoric times to contemporary urban life.
This exhibition will also feature a small selection of pen & ink artworks by self-taught, Kampot based artist, Vodka (KH). Vodka uses his art to explore themes of nature and civilisation; this is his first exhibition in Phnom Penh.
Both artists will also be exhibiting at From Disability to Visibility on February 20th.
February 19th – March | #23 St. 282, BKK1
Jenna Hang (USA)
After nearly five years living in Cambodia, contemporary artist Jenna Hang will exhibit a selection of paintings commemorating her experiences in the kingdom before returning to the US later this year. “Every day we pass by faces and structures that hold a story. Hang takes snapshots in time and reveals that there is more than meets the eye. What stories does a face tell? What pain and joy has it seen? If the infamous stained walls of colonial apartment buildings in Phnom Penh could talk, what would they tell us? If street vendors reported what they saw and heard in a day, would we be shocked?” writes Plantation curator, Laura Guerin. Jenna’s style is a balance of realism and impressionism. She paints portraits and landscapes of Cambodia and its people in both oil and watercolour.
February – January | #28 Samdach Preah Thoamak Lekhet Ouk St. (184), Phnom Penh
FROM DISABILITY TO VISIBILITY
Chan Phoun (KH) | Bor Hak (KH) | Mil Chankrim (KH) | Kim San (KH) | Limhay Chum (KH) | Jin (KH) | Vodka (KH) | Ket Monnyreak (KH) | Adana Mam Legros (KH/FR) | Sukunthkanika (KH) | Morn Chear (KH) | Ten Borey (KH) | Erick Gonzalez (FR/GT) | TYTA ART (KH) | Raphael Pech (FR/KH) | Sokha Chin (KH) | Mech Choulay (KH) | Miguel Jeronimo (PR) | Flori Green (FR) | Manon Combes (FR)
Roughly 15% of the world’s population have some form of disability. But in Cambodia, people with disabilities are often either invisible or are seen entirely as victims, lacking independence. What happens if you stop treating disabilities as medical problem and instead approach this as a social challenge?
Curated by photographer Miguel Jeronimo and featuring work by a number of prominent artists who have a disability themselves, the exhibition aims to address and explore stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding people with disabilities in Cambodia. It’s run in partnership with local NGOs Damnok Toek, Exceed/CSPO, Embraceability, Phnom Penh Center for Independent Living, Epic Arts, Action Cambodge Handicap,Starfish Foundation, OIC, AgileDG and Krousar Thmey.
February 20th – March | AiR Gallery, Factory Phnom Penh, 1159 National Road 2
In Case You Missed it…
These exhibitions have now closed, but keep an eye out for future projects by these talented Cambodian or Cambodia-based artists.
The Gallery by Sofitel
Em Riem (KH)
After focusing on sculpture, installation and fashion in recent years, Em Riem returned to The Gallery by Sofitel to showcase his long anticipated return to canvas painting. This collection was a vibrant exploration of Khmer history and culture, focussing on “Kambuja” and its disputed etymology. Known for incorporating authentic Khmer materials in his work, the paintings were made on Khmer jute, traditionally used for storing rice. A celebrated artist in France, among other countries, Em Riem’s style represents a coalescence of Modern European and traditional Asian art.
Hour Seyha (KH)
Battambang native Hour Seyha exhibited an exciting collection of paintings at Phnom Penh’s premiere gallery for provincial artists. Seyha’s unique and distinct style falls between surrealism and abstract painting while exploring contemporary and traditional Cambodian motifs. Seyha’s paintings are thoughtful and almost poetic, with layers of small details and hidden meanings painted into each colourful composition. If you’d like to catch his work, it’s permanently on display at Romcheik 5 Artspace, Battambang where he is a resident artist.
Blake Ward (CAN) | Chhan Dina (KH) | Choun Soheap (KH) | Conrad Keely (USA) | Em Satthya (KH) | Eriq Madsen (USA) | Ernst Altmann (GER) | Germain Priour (FR) | Khchao Touch (KH) | Keo Pheak (KH) | Keo Socheat (KH) | Kim Dina (KH) | Kiranman Chitrakar (NP) | Marie Suess, Maline & VR Kings (KH) | Mech Chouly (KH) | Mech Sreyrath (KH) | Miguel Jeronimo (PR) | Ny Vannak (KH) | Padma Kchcao-Swallow (KH) | Olga Shklyar (RS) | Ot Veasna (KH) | Rodney Dickson (USA) | Sokuntak Piteak (KH) | Sokuntevy Oeur (KH) | Sopheak Sao (KH) | So Phina (KH) | TYTA ART (KH) | Virginie Noel (FR)
For the first exhibition of the new year, Meta House created a group show of multiple and diverse contemporary artists, with a majority of Khmer female artists, around the theme of being a woman in Cambodia’s society and more being a woman in the current world. “SREY 2021” presented a visual conversation through photographs, paintings, installations, videos, performance, and poetry.
Sa Sa Art Projects
Roeurm Kolab (KH)
This exhibition at Tuol Sleng presented a new collection of paintings by local artist Roeurm Kolab. Concerned about environmental issues, Kolab created 10 paintings on the problems of social, demographic and climate change in Cambodia, highlighting plastic consumption habits and the impact of plastic pollution.
Sa Sa Art Projects
Sin Many (KH)
This one-day only exhibition by Sin Many concluded his residency with Sa Sa Art Projects. This exhibition was an abstract exploration of Phnom Penh’s urban landscape and its impact on the artist. If you missed it, you can catch Many in March at Sra’Art Gallery exhibiting with his collective HOMELESS.
Defying a drop in tourism due to Covid-19, exhibitions, workshops, events and artist talks are in full attendance across the city with some galleries implementing private viewings to control crowd sizes. It’s also fantastic to see artists selling work again after the adversities of 2020. Some are even breaking national sales records!
The year shows no signs of slowing down, either, with a new contemporary art festival, Penh Art founded by international artists Erick Gonzalez & Miguel Jeronimo coming to The National Museum and Factory Phnom Penh this March. Applications for artists are still open.
N o w h e r e Art Studio also has an open call for artists to submit small artworks for upcoming group exhibition Touch Touch. For budding artists, life drawing classes will be held this month by Drink & Draw at Cloud and Life Drawing FT Gallery. Sra’Art will host their monthly Sip & Paint, Kids’ Art Club as well as Art Class: History & Techniques, running til the end of March. Plantation will host a Botanical Painting Class on Sunday 21st by local artist Pakatip Dejaturat. Creative Generation will host an Artist Talk with Vuth Lyno on February 23rd at Futures Factory.
If somehow, this is still not enough, you can discover even more Pop Art at Space Four Zero, an exhibition of Louis Delaporte Steel-Engraved Prints from 1880 at Penh 278 and one-day-only video exhibition, But Who’s Counting? by Battambang-based artist Morrison Polkinghorne at Factory Phnom Penh.