In His Elders, Artist Sees a Generation Hiding Behind the Rain

Nov Cheanick’s exhibition “Rain,” which opens at Java Cafe Wednesday night, comes across as a cry from the hearts of a generation of 20-somethings in Cambodia.

“Every human being must move on and overcome the past,” the artist said Friday. “Since we live in the present, we need to walk forward to meet our future.”

'Sitting Under the Rain,' by Nov Cheanick (JavaArts)
‘Sitting Under the Rain,’ by Nov Cheanick (JavaArts)

Mr. Cheanick is 25 years old and part of a generation born as peace was returning to Cambodia. He grew up while the country was attempting to rebuild following two decades of turmoil.

But for many who lived through the civil war, the Khmer Rouge regime and the conflicts of the 1980s, coming to terms with the tragedy and returning to normalcy has proven difficult. And the struggle has taken a toll on their children.

In his latest exhibition, Mr. Cheanick said, “I wanted to express that human beings need to move on whether or not he or she has everything needed in terms of wealth, education or family status: We cannot stay at a standstill.”

Those who find themselves impoverished should take action to emerge from it instead of waiting for a better day that may never come, he said.

In his series of acrylic paintings, Mr. Cheanick has expressed the older generations’ attitude by painting them behind a sheet of rain that blurs their image and keeps them nearly absent from the world.

In the artist’s painting “Don’t Wait for the Rain to Stop,” all that can be seen behind the blue-grey wall of rain is a silhouette sitting on the ground and wearing a green garment, the person’s face barely visible.

In “All Time Must Go,” only the front of a small fishing boat is visible. Light barely pierces the blackish sheet of rain tinged with dark green that turns blue as it reaches the river.

“Rain is a symbol of obstacles,” Mr. Cheanick said. “We can move on and challenge the rain…. Rain cannot stop us from moving forward to meet our goal. If we set ourselves a specific place in life and we commit to it, then we can achieve our goal.”

“Human beings cannot be born free of challenges,” he added.

Born to a poor family in Battambang City, Mr. Cheanick was forced to drop out of school in grade nine. However, he later studied at the art school of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang City, from which he graduated in 2010. The following year, he received a grant to study art in France for three months.

In addition to Cambodia, Mr. Cheanick’s work has so far been exhibited in France, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Opening at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Java Cafe, “Rain” runs through September 7.

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