Women on Canvas

An art exhibition opening in Battambang City on Saturday represents a rare story of women artists. Rare because there still are so few female painters and sculptors in the country, whether Cambodians or foreigners.

The concept for the show “Women by Women” actually took shape at the wedding of Oeur Sokunthevy—one of the country’s leading women artists—when artist Chhan Dina discussed with Darren Swallow of the Lotus Gallery her idea of holding a group exhibition with two women artist friends.

“Daydream” by Anna Sudra (Anna Sudra)
“Daydream” by Anna Sudra (Anna Sudra)

“Hopefully this exhibition would inspire people in general and more women to be artists,” she said.
Mr. Swallow, who happens to be married to influential Battambang artist Khao Touch, agreed.

The result is a collection of women’s portraits created by Ms. Dina, Anna Sudra and Bernadette Vincent, each done in a distinctive style that makes every subject come to life with her own uniqueness.

“Being three women artists ourselves, we wanted to capture the strength, resilience, thoughtfulness and warmth that women can possess all at once,” Ms. Sudra said.

In Ms. Dina’s painting “Fisherman,” a woman’s profile emerges from a somewhat abstract universe, her face rendered in blue and teal taking shape against a bright blue background. Touches of golden yellow and deep red complement the portrait without attempting to alleviate her somber expression.

“Beautiful in out” by Chhan Dina (Warren Daly)
“Beautiful in out” by Chhan Dina (Warren Daly)

For this series of works, the Cambodian artist used mainly acrylic paint although she occasionally turned to oil and mixed techniques. “Each action: a different medium,” she said.

Ms. Sudra also used both oil and acrylic paint but played with sand, fibrous rice paper and even cardboard to add texture.

For her work entitled “Daydream,” the American artist applied layers of paint on top of layers that had not yet dried in order to create depth. The result is the silhouette of a woman seemingly lost in thought appearing through veils of muted brown, yellow and pale blue.

Belgian artist Bernadette Vincent went even further in experimentation, combining photography and computer imaging with painting.

Her works in the exhibition, she said, “are prints on canvas. Painting was involved at some point, but it was photographed, put on computer, remixed with something else and then printed on canvas.”

“Reverie” by Anna Sudra (Anna Sudra)
“Reverie” by Anna Sudra (Anna Sudra)

In Ms. Vincent’s work “Lost,” the nearly transparent face of a young Cambodian woman with a red heart painted on her cheek appears on a checkerboard of red bricks. In “Semblance,” the face of another woman is half hidden by soft waves of fuchsia.

“What ties the show together, besides of course the topic of women, is the experimental and raw nature of our work,” Ms. Sudra said. “While we all use different techniques, we are all artists who enjoy taking risks and experimenting with our work. Bernadette for example…combines both traditional and digital media in interesting new ways and enjoys the freedom this gives her. Dina also uses a range of media and expresses herself fearlessly with anything she can get her hands on, be it wall putty or her fingertips.

“As for myself, I love experimenting with texture and expressive brushstrokes,” she said.

The exhibition at the Lotus Gallery—located at 53 Street 2.5 off Central Market—opens at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and will run through August.

“Semblance” by Bernadette Vincent (Bernadette Vincent)
“Semblance” by Bernadette Vincent (Bernadette Vincent)

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