French Artist Captures the Texture of Cambodia

The more one looks at French artist Dominique Tricoire’s painting “Temple of the Millennium Kingdom,” the more sparkling dots of radiant colors reveal themselves around a gray temple rising into a burnt orange and yellow sky.

In many works of Mr. Tricoire’s exhibition “Revelation,” which opens Thursday at the hotel Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, his mastery of color is obvious through the strong impressions they leave even after one quick glance at his paintings.

A rainy city scene entitled “Into the Night” shows stark gray and black tones accentuated by vertical lines and faint streaks of yellow and blue that illustrate the harshness of the city.

In “Symphony,” a pale green and yellow mist shaded with pink envelops Southeast Asian scenery, conveying the serenity of land that has remained intact despite human upheavals.

“I work through superimposition,” the 44-year-old artist said. “I start with a background and I build and build on it to create [atmospheres]. In this painting, I was aiming for intensity, a tinge of the unreal.”

He named the series, which took him a year to create, “Revelation” as he did not really know what he would produce when he left Paris last year and moved to Phnom Penh to paint.

For 20 years, Mr. Tricoire has been a painter and set designer in Paris, working for television and theater, special events, fashion shows and fashion boutiques. His specialty is colors, patina and textures, which he uses to create moods in his paintings.

In his teens, Mr. Tricoire spent a year in Indonesia and also traveled extensively throughout India, Burma and Laos. So when he decided to leave Paris in January 2012, he remembered Southeast Asia and came to Phnom Penh, which he had visited in 2001.

At first, Mr. Tricoire said he was not sure what would come out of his journey. He had in mind ancient cities and religious sites—the silhouette of Angkorian and Burmese temples appear in some of his paintings—but he had no specific idea as to the concepts or styles he would employ.

So after a quick tour of Cambodia, Mr. Tricoire rented an apartment in Phnom Penh, turned it into a studio and went to work. He spent his first four months sketching and then began painting with a combination of oil paint, acrylic, ink and water-based paint.

His first works were city scenes inspired by Phnom Penh, which he portrays with a startling bleakness. His painting “Work in Black” features two multistory residential buildings in a forest of electrical wires, black silhouettes against a red sky.

Then Mr. Tricoire’s work evolved into abstracts and serene, imaginary Southeast Asian landscapes. “The idea was to reveal through colors the journey, the concept,” he said.

Listening to jazz and Western classical music while working, he adopted an early 20th-century style, which corresponded to the emotions he wanted to express, he said. Each painting is accompanied by a quote from an author that Mr. Tricoire said gave him inspiration for the work. The text comes from writers as varied as 13th-century Muslim philosopher Ibn Arabi, English poet and painter William Blake, and Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.

For instance, the abstract titled “Correspondences” in which black lines mix and connect against a marbled background is accompanied by the quote “Only in relationship can you know yourself…. It’s the mirror of your consciousness” from Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Now that “Revelation” is completed, Mr. Tricoire is working on a new series that will be based on the idea of alchemy, interpreting the ancient quest to turn metal into gold as being analogous to how the outside world may transform a person’s inner self, he said.

The exhibition at the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra runs through July 25.

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