The Nobel-Baza Fine Art Gallery in San Diego is hosting this month two Cambodian artists. The gallery represents international artists who are making an impact on the contemporary art scene.
The show is called “Sight Lines,” and it runs from June 3 to July 3.
Pierrette Van Cleve, the founder and president of the Art Cellar Exchange, told VOA Khmer that ‘Sight Lines’ focuses on Linda Saphan, who was airlifted out of Cambodia as a small child, and Oeur Sokuntevy who grew up in Battambang and has lived in Cambodia her whole life.
The show explores the difference in vision between the two artists.
“Linda Saphan looks back into Cambodia at the women who were there, and sees herself in every woman she sees on the street, because she grew up in the West with all these advantages,” Van Cleve said. “Whereas Tevy sees herself looking forward into this new world and into new ideas of the new role of the women and the new role of the artist.”
Saphan was born in Phnom Penh in 1975 and lived in Canada and France. She traveled to Cambodia in 2006 and saw women aged similar to her still in traditional clothing, cleaning the streets, working in markets, working in shops.
She photographed them and then copied the photos in ballpoint pen. The women in the images have kramas on their faces. The works are called “Incognito.”
“I felt like these women wore incognito in their lives, just going to their lives working traditionally in small jobs and small shops without the education and opportunity that I had,” Saphan said.
Oeur Sokuntevy, meanwhile, studied painting at the Phare Ponleu Selapak in Battambang province and moved to Phnom Penh in 2007 to pursue art. She has had much interest in her work as one of the very few female contemporary artists currently showing in Cambodia.
“Sokuntevy’s work is also on homemade paper made from fiber and a very rough homemade paper,” Van Cleve said “And she painted in bright color in a folk art tradition about things and stories happening in Cambodia and her life right now, a woman’s role in the family, a woman’s role in relationships, a woman’s role in the world and how they’re changing dramatically from the traditional role of women that took place not more than a few years ago.”
Oeur Sokuntevy said Cambodian women today face high pressure “to be at the same time modern among their friends and traditional for their relatives.”
“My artwork presents myself as an artist who is not distanced from contemporary society,” she said. “I draw portraits of today’s Cambodian girls torn between tradition and modernity, of what their hearts desire against what society demands of them.”
Van Cleve said collectors and curators have come to the show and are fascinated by the comparisons of the two women—who are nearly the same age but have very different experiences.
“I have spent hours explaining how Cambodia is now moving forward very quickly into the 21st Century, and it is growing and is embracing contemporary changing modern thing at a tremendous way,” Van Cleve said.
“Most of the people are extremely interested in both,” she added. “We have sold pieces from both Tevy’s work and Linda’s work to two different kinds of people. People either react to Tevy’s color and her subject matter or they react to the quiet refinement of Linda’s work.”
In February 2011, “Sight Lines” will be part of a large collaboration with the US Embassy, the Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington—which is currently hosting a display of ancient bronze work from Cambodia’s National Museum.
“At that time, we are going to have a huge season of Cambodia and will present a dance festival, an art festival, a photography festival, a film festival, in conjunction all of Cambodian arts and films,” Van Cleve said. “I have decided to spend a good part portion every year in Cambodia promoting Cambodian artists and art works along with Dana Langois of Java Art Gallery.”
Sokuntevy’s most recent solo exhibitions include ‘I Curl In Memory’s Belly’ at Java Gallery in 2010, ‘Family Ties’ at Java Gallery in 2009, and ‘Star Signs’ at Hotel De La Paix (Cambodia) in 2008.
This year Sokuntevy has been selected as the artist-in-residence for March at the New Zero Art Space (Mayanmar). In October, she will have a solo exhibition at the French Cultural Centre in Phnom Penh.