Down to Earth

For his series entitled “Disaster,” painter and illustrator Chea Sereyroth used muted earth tones: brown and grey, deep blue and burned orange.

And yet, great strength emanates from his large canvases, as if the forces of nature depicted are pulling in the viewer.

A painting by artist Chea Sereyroth (Siv Channa)
A painting by artist Chea Sereyroth (Siv Channa)

The series is meant as a warning that we need to act now to protect our planet, the 23-year-old artist explained.

“Let’s not wait till it’s too late to protect our environment if we want to avoid disasters,” he said.

Now exhibited at Romeet Gallery in Phnom Penh, the paintings reflect a disrupted reality: a small boat in swirling water, a deer in a chaotic landscape, a woman caught in a whirlwind.

Mr. Sereyroth created this sense of movement with acrylic paint but also through relief and texture achieved with actual earth, colored sawdust and pencil shavings that he glued to the canvas.

The overall effect is not of despair but rather a reminder of the quiet power of nature. The series is meant, Mr. Sereyroth said, “to make people understand that we are part of this environment and that if we are ignorant and fail to protect it, it will cause disasters and huge issues for all.”

Originally from Battambang province, Mr. Sereyroth studied fine arts at the Phare Ponleu Selpak’s Art School in Battambang City and graphic design at the Battambang Institute of Technology.

He now works at the graphic design studio Sonleuk Thmey, launched by Phare in 2011. “My daily work is designing logos, leaflets, posters as well as illustrating books and also teaching” at Phare, he said. He has previously exhibited in Singapore in addition to Phnom Penh.

The series was done in response to the earthquake followed by the tsunami and nuclear accidents that caused such destruction in Japan in 2011, and the earthquake that had devastated Haiti one year earlier, Mr. Sereyroth said.

“Our country has suffered a number of flooding, but those were not as serious as…the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti.”
But with economic development altering the landscape, Mr. Sereyroth said, “We all need to pay utmost attention to protect the environment in Cambodia to prevent such horrible…natural disasters.”

The exhibition at Romeet Gallery, which is located at #34E1 Street 178, runs through June 9.

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