The paintings and sculptures in Bor Hak’s latest series, “Green World,” which will be exhibited Saturday in Battambang City, are a study in contrasts, reflecting the past and future of Cambodia’s vanishing forests.
One of the paintings is a romantic vision of a path in an untouched forest: The sun glows yellow on tall trees painted in soft shades of blue, the scene reminiscent of Impressionist works of a century ago. It is entitled “Ronaing,” or protection, referring to the natural protection that forests afford living things.
But the sculptures in the series speak of destruction, with a series of busts that silently shout pain.
“I strongly believe that human beings and animals lived together in harmony when the forests were so green,” Mr. Hak said Wednesday. “But I have seen the escalation of deforestation taking place everywhere. I told myself that it was time to show through my work that trees are life and that their pain communicates to all when they fall.”
In one sculpture, there are metal blades in the lower part of the work, which depicts a face whose features are distorted in misery.
This is the first time that the 23-year-old artist has tried his hand at sculpture, but he shines in the medium. His wood and metal works have both simplicity and strength.
Originally from Kompong Thom province, Mr. Hak spent his early teens illegally working on a pineapple plantation and processing plant in Thailand. After three years, he was arrested by Thai police and sent back to Cambodia, where he was put under the care of organizations for children and teenagers returning from Thailand. He later enrolled at the Phare Ponleu Selpak art school in Battambang City, where he is still studying.
The series also includes an impressionistic view of a forest fire, the deep red, yellow and white billow of flames rising black into the sky to create a nearly abstract scene.
“We have many worlds,” Mr. Hak said. “The human world is one where life has existed and relied on the ‘green world.’ But we are in danger…because of deforestation from logging and land grabbing. We see our green world dying, causing climate change and disasters.
“This is my message…that every single person must contribute to protect forests, the environment and to stop harm to wild animals,” he added.
“Green World” opens at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Sammaki Gallery, the arts and community center created by Battambang City’s visual artists. It will run through August 16.