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Artist Says Both Modern and Classical Art Can Reflect a Society

Chhim Sothy, a Cambodian artist, pose in front of his painting at the launching of his exhibition called "Consuming Passion" at the Plantation Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on June 25, 2015.

Chhim Sothy's award-winning work has been shown in many countries, including the US, and in Europe.

Chhim Sothy is a well respected painter and sculptor, whose work has been showcased internationally. In an interview with VOA Khmer, he said he views art as “a mirror reflecting society.”

Chhim Sothy is a contemporary artist, which can be a hard path to walk in a country that most often values traditional art forms, such as classical dance. But he said his mission is to promote the growth of modern art in Cambodia.

Chhim Sothy was born in Lvea Em district, Kandal province, and survived the Khmer Rouge. He lost a father and two siblings to the regime. As a child, though, he would draw pictures along the river bank, in the sand, “and on whatever was possible to be drawn on.”

He eventually went on to study at the University of Fine Arts, in Phnom Penh. He has been a designer and artistic director, and began work at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in 1998. His traditional painting work includes Hindu epics or Buddhist stories, imbued with explosions of color.

In his contemporary work, he also seeks to explore Cambodia’s tragic past, in drawings that show the dark side of life in a country that has struggled with war, despite its progress in development. He hopes to raise awareness of the inequality between the country’s rich and poor.

“There are still innocent people trying very hard to survive,” he said. “Some are losing any benefit from development, and some are evicted to make way for development in the city.”

He has had an exhibit of his work, “Consuming Passion,” comprised of 20 paintings, on display at the Plantation Hotel, in Phnom Penh, for the last two months. In that collection, he also calls attention to the need for environmental protections in the country.

Chhim Sothy remains optimistic about the role of contemporary art in Cambodia. “When we draw more and more, and try harder and harder, they will have a little better knowledge about it, so they will surely understand the concept,” he said.

Meanwhile, his award-winning work has been shown in many countries, including the US, and in Europe. Such achievement comes from his love of his work, he said. “Painting and drawing are my heart and soul. I have devoted most of my life to this, and I get the most out of my talent. I usually tell other people that if you like one thing whole heartedly, make the best of it, and reach the peak of your ability.”