Artist Says Goodbye to Lake

In the last days before leaving his studio by Boeng Kak lake in November, Leang Seckon created artworks to say goodbye.

Mr Seckon lived with his family next to the lake for nearly 20 years, during which time he became an acclaimed contemporary artist. On the brink of his departure, Mr Seckon filled canvases with fish, eyes and tears floating in water and sand to remember the lake.  

“Through my paintings, I just want to show my sweet and bitter experiences during my life there,” said Mr Seckon in a recent interview. “I painted because I want them to be used as a memory and to say goodbye.”

Thousands of residents around the lake are facing eviction after a private company owned by CPP senator Lao Meng Khin started to fill the lake with sand for a development project in 2008.

“But I felt happy to leave the area because I want to see the government’s development there too,” Mr Seckon said, leaving interpretations of his artworks, which mix paint, fabric, and thread, to viewers.

London-based Rossi & Rossi gallery showed the multimedia paintings at the Art Stage Singapore, an international art fair, in January. The works form part of an unfinished series called “Shadow of the Heavy Skirt,” a sequel of sorts to his renowned previous collection “Heavy Skirt.”

The new pieces look at life in Cambodia after decades of conflict, which were reflected in the earlier series shown at Rossi & Rossi in March 2010. “Heavy Skirt” refers to his mother’s only skirt, weighed down with patches during the civil war of the early 1970s.

Mr Seckon, who was born in 1970 in Prey Veng province, graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts and had his first solo show at Java Cafe in 2002.

Another one of Cambodia’s best-known contemporary artists, Sopheap Pich, had a studio next to Mr Seckon’s for more than five years but left in mid-December.

“Both of us owe a lot to beautiful Boeng Kak lake. In fact I don’t think my career would be where it is now had I not had those years of solitude to work in,” Mr Pich said by e-mail.

“Flow,” a sculpture made in 2007, was based on morning glory plants that grew on the lake until about a year ago, he said. “In any case, water and water-life has always been influential to the way I work. I work with bamboo and rattan and many of my sculptures do suggest fish-traps and such.”

Mr Pich said his new studio is on the banks of the Mekong, near where sand is being dredged to fill other areas.

  (Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

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