Artists’ Affection for City on Display at New Exhibition

The art show is entitled “I love PP,” and all the noise and busyness of Phnom Penh’s streets at rush hour filled Java Cafe on Sihanouk Boulevard on Thurs­day afternoon as dozens of artists and workers were rushing to install artworks prior to the evening’s opening.

Heng Ravuth, 23, still had to assemble his multi-color, two-piece abstract of the city’s roadways, shown as sinuous lines to express the fast and heavy traffic.

The artwork of Kong Vollak, 25, was already up: a long band of paper spread over two walls near the ceiling on which he had drawn twisted lengths of electric wires.

“They are everywhere in Phnom Penh,” he said of electric cables, installed hodge-podge and presenting real danger.

By the time the exhibition op­ened at 6 pm, all the artworks were in place, and more than 100 people were already touring the rooms and posting notes in an installation designed by Dutch artist Panca Evenblij.

“I really want people to write what they think about the city—anything they want. And like the city, [the installation] is going to get bigger and bigger,” she said.

About 12 artists and photographers are involved in “I love PP,” which is part of “Architecture + Design Month,” a program of lectures and exhibitions held this month at various locations across the city.

A few walls at Java are papered with photos of the capital. Fleur Bourgeois Smith of New Zealand has contributed black-and-white shots of 1960s buildings in Phnom Penh.

“I had a bit of an awakening five years ago and started to look at those buildings,” she said. “I just love concrete, and love the lines of those structures,” she said. In an­other nod to the iconic architecture of the 1960s, Swedish photographer Anders Jiras printed a large photo of the recently razed Bassac Theater’s interior in copper tones on a wall hanging.

Lim Sokchan Lina, 21, photographed the waterfront at sunset, the silhouette of the Royal Palace dominating a portion of the landscape.

Compared to other Asian capitals, Phnom Penh is small but beautiful, he said. “It’s easy lifestyle: On 10,000 riel, you can live one day,” he added.

Suy Pheap, 22, painted people at Wat Phnom in oil. While he loves the city, he said “when it rains streets are flooded and even in gardens, there’s a lot of gar­bage” due to residents’ habit of dropping refuse everywhere.

One of the people touring the artworks was Rebecca Brewer, an Australian newly moved to Phnom Penh.

She found that the show provided perspective an insight into the city’s development.

“It’s a very young city going through a growth spurt,” she said. “It’s finding its feet between the old and the new.”

“I love PP” runs through Sept 28..

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