Artistic Couple Collaborate In ‘Man and Wife’ Exhibition

In a new exhibition by well-known painter Mao Soviet and his wife, Phin Sophorn, the two Battambang-born artists tried to exemplify that a work of art is often a labor of love.

“Sometimes, she wanted to kill me,” said Mr. Soviet of his wife, Ms. Sophorn, who stood next to him and smiled at the opening of “Man and Wife” on Thursday evening at Top Art Gallery on Phnom Penh’s Sisowath Quay.

“We knew painting together would be hard; it’s always hard to do things together,” 27-year-old Ms. Sophorn said.

As their styles are very different—Mr. Soviet’s paintings are darker with detailed ornaments and Ms. Sophorn’s usually show beautiful women with sequin-adorned flowers—bringing their ideas to a common thread involved a lot of effort and patience.

For their first painting, “They Want to Know Our Love,” the young couple split the canvas and decided to work on each half individually.

“We changed it many times, it was very difficult,” said Mr. Soviet, adding that the biggest challenge was to connect the two sides.

“Sometimes, I thought, ‘I don’t want to work with you, you are so slow,’ and I got impatient and told her, ‘Just finish it, just finish it!’”

It took them about three months until they were finally satisfied, and now, said Mr. Soviet, “They Want to Know Our Love” is his favorite painting in the exhibition.

“We got angry at each other so much and had many fights over the painting. It really tells a story, and shows our different styles as well,” he said.

As they had learned more about one another’s habits and quirks on that first collaboration, their second and third paintings became more harmonious.

Ms. Sophorn said that while working on their second painting, “Man and Wife,” she never felt tired, and sometimes didn’t stop painting until midnight.

“I had so much energy. I think it really shows the love between us. And it’s more my project than his,” she said.

Only small details in “Man and Wife” reveal the participation of Mr. Soviet, who said that his wife did about 70 percent of the painting.

“It was interesting for me to do this one. But our styles are very different, and this one looks like I followed her style,” said Mr. Soviet, and added jokingly: “Sometimes, I’m not sure if her paintings are art. But don’t tell her that.”

Besides their three collaborations, which are the exhibition’s major works, Phin Sophorn and Mao Soviet are also exhibiting an installation, sculptures and other paintings of their own.

The exhibition, “Man and Wife,” runs through January at Top Art Gallery, #155 E2, Siso­wath Quay.



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