Opening reception: 13th Feb, 2009 (Friday), 7pm - 10pm
Artist: Svay Ken, Vann Nath, Duong Saree, Em Satya, Rithy Panh, Sopheap Pich, Leang Seckon and more
10 Chancery Lane Gallery presents Forever Until Now, a group show of new artworks from Cambodia’s established and emerging artists.
This ground-breaking group show provides for the first time a complete overview of contemporary art in today’s Cambodia. Wide-ranging practices in painting, sculpture, film and photography by fourteen artists spanning three generations reveal new and culturally specific perspectives from a country too often defined by ancient temples and collective trauma.
As Cambodians continues to negotiate an understanding around their past, foreign aid and investment are importing their future. The capitol Phnom Penh and temple-hub tourist city Siem Reap boom with luxury cars and housing developments, while the majority of Cambodians today survive on less than one US dollar per day.
The regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979 killed the majority of educated people, including an estimated ninety percent of artists. In terms of visual arts practices, surviving artists moved forward, understandably, by enlivening traditions that were nearly lost. A master-artisan model of production was reapplied to thousand-year-old traditions such as silk weaving, stone carving and mask making at the Royal University of Fine Arts. Modern painting concepts and methods during the French Protectorate had been too brief and individualistic to hold value before the war. Still today, the Modern Painting department continues to teach perspective with Angkor Wat and utopian rice farms as subjects, while traditional Hindu and Buddhist narratives are the subjects of final exams.
Although access to technologies and international art discourses are still severely limited in Cambodia today, experimentation and adaptation of globalised practices can be seen in nearly all areas of Cambodian public life from architecture to fashion to food and music. Younger artists eager to employ new concepts and practices participate in workshops with visiting artists, while their peers with educations from abroad model professional studio practices.
The artists selected for Forever Until Now are anomalies in a country with an anomalous history. They are fourteen of only forty practicing artists in a Kingdom of fourteen million. They are either survivors or were born into a culture of survivalist thought and practice. They have coped and they continue to cope with creative tolerance to their surroundings. They evolve visual art practices regardless, or, in some cases, in spite of what is absent.
The guideposts by which artists express themselves are responses to personal living experience. In this way, the artists provide a window into contemporary thought in Cambodia, with some artists considering the past as a means to build collective memory, and others reflecting the present as a means to consider the future.
-Erin Gleeson, curator
Central Gallery - Until March 22, 2009
Art Projects, Chai Wan – Until April 26, 2009