Cockfighting Inspires Artist’s Meditation on Nature and Death

As a teenager growing up in Battambang City, Sin Rithy liked to watch cockfights.

But as the 25-year-old painter grew up, he began considering how the animals were being treated.

Untitled oil painting by Sin Rithy (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Untitled oil painting by Sin Rithy (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

And seeing fellow spectators so intently focused on the fights, Mr. Rithy began to ask himself whether human beings—like the animals fighting to stay alive—are too focused on survival to consider what they will leave behind.

“Animals don’t care about anything beyond living…but human beings are meant to accomplish something before their deaths,” said Mr. Rithy, whose exhibition “Undivided Nature: the death within life / the life within death,” opens on Thursday at Phnom Penh’s Romeet Gallery.

Through the series of paintings, which include fighting cocks along with a few other animals depicted in deep colors reflecting the immediacy of the moment, Mr. Rithy hopes to get people thinking about their role in nature, and responsibility to take care of it.

In one work, cocks are shown as if in flight. Set against a beige and brown background, the animals are facing each other, their heads painted in muted shades of red and their feathers rendered in black and brown.

In another painting done in similar colors, two cocks are in full combat, their black feathers spreading in all directions in the heat of the action. Painted on canvas, the work is displayed over the lower half of a wooden frame, the upper section of which has been left empty.

Mr. Rithy said the work is meant to express the emptiness—in place of a legacy—left by some people when they die.

“During their lifetimes, some people just hurt, damage and destroy others, nature and animals,” he said.

Born in Anh Chanh village near Battambang City, Mr. Rithy studied at the Phare Ponleu Selpak’s art school, graduating in 2010. Since then, his work has been featured in numerous exhibitions in Cambodia and Thailand.

The exhibition at Romeet Gallery runs through May 23.

[email protected], [email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News