Cambodian artist Oeur Sokuntevy’s nightmarish series of couples painted in Technicolor went on display Thursday at Phnom Penh’s French Cultural Center.
The latest modern artworks by Battambang-born Ms Sokuntevy depict a contradictory and dark version of love in Cambodia in which women end up on top.
Ms Sokuntevy said during an interview on Thursday that her own feelings of love, hate and anger from past relationships went into the pieces.
“Its kind of my story. It depends on my mood-sometimes love, sometimes hate,” Ms Sokuntevy said, noting that the colors reflect how she felt while painting.
The first brash piece in the “Love to Death” series shows a woman astride a man holding a curved sword to his neck. Despite being in a powerful position the woman is crying while branches erupt from the man’s face.
When describing the multicolored skinned woman in the painting, Ms Sokuntevy slipped in and out of the first person. The high-heel on the man’s back shows the woman, like the others in the series, holds the power, she said.
“The girl really wants to kill him, but he is already dead in her mind,” she said, noting that real experiences feed into the dream-like acrylic paintings on handmade paper.
The images are abstract and distorted but details in the background–pictures on walls and landscapes–are distinctly Cambodian.
Ms Sokuntevy said that most Cambodians would not understand the explicit representations of sexuality, which went against Khmer culture. “In Cambodia, women like to hide [relationships]. They don’t like to talk.”
The 28-year-old artist, who studied painting at the arts school Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang, has had a string of solo-exhibitions in Phnom Penh and recently exhibited at a gallery in San Diego, California.
A contemporary exhibition by Svay Sareth, one of the founders Phare Ponleu Selpak who taught there until 2002, also opened Thursday at the French Cultural Center. Both exhibitions run until Nov 13.