About five years ago, Cambodian artist Heng Ravuth embarked on a journey—exploring human nature through the naked body.
For his latest exhibition, “Drunk Nude,” which opens Wednesday at Phnom Penh’s Java Cafe & Gallery, the 31-year-old painter has depicted the male body, distorted in different settings, reflecting the nature of people devoid of their trappings.
Each work is the result of a long process, during which he first amplified and altered photographs of himself with editing software and then transformed the resulting images using pencil and paint. The outcome is a series of multilayered acrylic paintings in which the superimposed visual elements create a collage-like impression.
“This gives me the freedom to create my own distorted reality… reflected as twisted and offbeat,” he said.
In “Naked With Dog,” a nude, tattooed man sits on a dilapidated armchair. He has a two-sided head, each side with a mouth and nose, as if attempting to keep watch over all corners of his world.
In “Picnic Nude,” men are sitting or lying in a pile on the ground. Wooden buildings in the background suggest a waterfront nearby.
Born in Phnom Penh, Mr. Ravuth graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts and later trained as a photographer. His work has been shown abroad several times, including in Singapore and Canada.
For his series “Innermost II” last year, he painted male nudes in a classic style reminiscent of Greek sculptures of two millennia ago, or those of the Italian Renaissance in the 1500s.
This time, Mr. Ravuth has adopted a contemporary, surrealist style. “I do strive to get better and make each painting as technically creative as I can,” he said.
The exhibition opens at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and runs through September 30.