Batbaatar Khurelbaatar’s painting “Pinhole” recalls the time in the early 1920s when his country of Mongolia got caught between the warring armies of the Soviet Union and China.
The Mongolian Communist Party, which then took over the country with Soviet support, would try to erase all traces of Mongolian culture.
Based on historical photos, the painting displays on the left Mongolians posing with Soviet officers shown through a coat of red, and on the right Mongolians sitting with Chinese officials barely visible under a layer of black paint.
This award-winning painter is one of three artists featured in the opening exhibition of Brad and Rattana Gordon’s Teo + Namfah Gallery on Street 214.
Another Mongolian artist in the exhibition is Nandin Erdene Budzagd, who signs her work “B. Nandia.” Some of her collage and acrylic works speak of the life of street kids in her country. The paintings were deliberately done in bright, pastel tones, though the reality they illustrate is far from joyful, the 29-year-old artist said. At times, those children are like “lost luggage” that no one cares for or claims, she said. In several paintings of that series, faces and bodies are made of bits of images painted or pasted as if the young people portrayed were disconnected or even broken due to their harsh lives.
The third artist in the show is Denis Min-Kim. Born in France to a Cambodian father, he has been living in Cambodia for about four years.
His series of drawings on Cambodian boxers based on photos he shot at boxing matches took him 88 days to complete, he said. He worked out composition on computer, sketched the scenes on paper, and then ground the color pigment of a black pastel stick into paste, which he applied by hand to each sketch. This technique was an attempt to convey the tension and concentration of the boxers, the 29-year-old artist explained.
Mr Gordon had planned for two years to hold an exhibition of these two leading Mongolian artists, he said. At first, he had thought of showing their work at his gallery in Bangkok or in Hong Kong, where he is involved with a couple of galleries, but decided instead to do it at his Phnom Penh gallery launch.
At the new gallery, he said, “We’re looking to show some of the strongest artists we can find in this young generation: late 20s and early 30s. We think that Phnom Penh can be a very good place to hold exhibitions for that age group. And we’re looking for artists from Indonesia, maybe the Philippines, and a few other countries,” he said.
“We would love to see Phnom Penh as a cultural center for Asia and to just put it on the map in terms of a place artists across Asia want to come and show,” Mr Gordon said.
The exhibition at 21 Street 214 ends July 1.