A Polish Artist Finds Inspiration in the Cambodian Sun

Ever since Adrianna Snochowska arrived in Cambodia one year ago, she has not been able to stop painting.

“You just go outside and you see mothers with kids, women with crazy vibrant kramas on their heads, and the birds in the morning and the tuk-tuks on the street: All the colors and sounds. You wouldn’t find any place like it on the planet,” she said.

Calling her first series painted in Cambodia “Interpretations,” the Polish artist has translated those sights and sounds into works filled with an exuberance that is truly contagious.  But this is also an exuberance rooted in a quiet joy that does not make demands, that one can savor at one’s own pace.

Ms. Snochowska’s series is currently on exhibit at The Insider Gallery of Hotel InterContinental Phnom Penh.
In her abstract “Dance of the Sun,” multiple layers open up to reveal light at the center, their colors graduating from amber to pale yellow and leading to white light in the middle.

“Evolution” is an icy blue, white and gray cityscape: Its contours soften in the light. “Devotion” features a mother and child on a blue background, the image made of several layers of ribbon-like vertical bands that seem to gently flutter in the breeze.

The effects of the harsh sun on the Cambodian landscape are depicted in several paintings, the most striking one being a view of Angkor in which all that is visible is the silhouette of the monuments in a landscape turned white by the blinding light.

It is the feeling emanating from the monuments rather than the architecture itself that most struck Ms. Snochowska at Angkor.

“If you want to go there just to have a trip, you shouldn’t go,” the 34-year-old artist said. “This is a place to stay up for a few days, have time for yourself: a pure, peaceful place.”

Ms. Snochowska had been living in Northern Ireland for seven years when she relocated to Phnom Penh in February 2013.

“Not knowing what to expect, I had brought three t-shirts, one pair of pants and four large suitcases of paint,” she said.

Immediately Ms. Snochowska began painting with an intensity she had not known before. “There’s just something here that gives me the freedom to just play with colors.”

She also started collaborating with Cambodian women artists such as Oeur Sokuntevy and Chhan Dina.

“Whenever I travel, I feel that I should not get too close to people, because one day I will leave this place,” she said. But here, Ms. Snochowska has not been able to abide by her personal rule and has become part of a circle of musicians and artists, she said. “I’m meeting here the most beautiful people ever.”

The style of Ms. Snochowska’s series “Interpretations” is somewhat reminiscent of the Moderns, the European painters from the turn of the 20th century such as Gustav Klimt who were looking for fresh ways to express the new era. When asked about works that may have influenced her, she noted that no artist can ever produce something totally new.

All one can do, Ms. Snochowska said, is paint. “I found peace within myself here…and I just keep on painting.”
Her exhibition at The Insider Gallery runs through February 8.

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