Sauntering into an art exhibit opening in a new country is always an experience that I approach without any brush strokes. No expectations; no preconceived notions.
The Tamarind Restaurant on Street 240 – better known as NGO Road – was art-deco-ed out for the event.
And Chhim Sothy – the Cambodian artist with the solo exhibit – apparently has a bit of a following, judging by the locals who turned up. Off to a good start.
As is my MO (modus operandi for those fortunate enough to have escaped Latin) I minced in to check it out. Hummmm, engaging, but nothing that grabbed me by the throat. Perhaps because I’ve seen similar abstract paintings elsewhere: Sydney, Saskatoon, Singapore. But then, I’m not an art critic. Rather, just an arty chick who critiques.
After about my third sangria – which helped wash down the irresistible tapas-to-drool-for that just kept coming – I extracted myself from the usual chit-chat and wandered up to the second floor.
Ah, alone in an artistic space. And there it was – the painting I’d been looking for. One glance and it screamed “Cambodia” at me. The kramar – a scarf that also serves as a head-wrap, a brow-mopper, a baby sling and a host of other uses; the figure picking across the garbage dump with a bag to collect the recycle-ables. For me the painting had all the signs and symptoms of global suffering and universal hope.
Back on the ground floor, I nudged my friend Tony to introduce me to the artist. When I waxed eloquently about “My Family” – as the painting was titled – Chhim Sothy asked if I wanted to buy it. Yes, but – alas – it wouldn’t fit into the one suitcase, the carry-on and the diaper bag that hold all my worldly possessions. So the photo will have to suffice.
We chatted and Chhim Sothy gave me a copy of his press release. From that I learned he was born in Kandal province in 1969. Then he moved to Phnom Penh and studied traditional Khmer painting at the Royal University of Fine Arts. From what I can gather, he has had a varied career of bureaucracy and freelance that spans exhibits in nine countries and various awards.
Alas, Chhim Sothy doesn’t have a web site or an email address. But you can contact him on (855) 12-83-22-28 or at No 1 Eo, Street 109, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. So when you are in Phnom Penh, do be sure to go around and check out his work.