New Show Exhibits an Artist’s Dark Memories of Childhood

Violence and fear lurk behind childhood pastimes remembered by the Battambang province-born artist Yim Maline in her first solo exhibition, which opened last week at Phnom Penh’s Sa Sa Bassac art gallery.

One work represents the area where Ms Maline played as girl: a mound of dirt scattered with ceramic knives, misshapen bowls and bone-like dolls.

“My family did not have enough money to buy toys, so I needed to create my own playthings,” Ms Maline said in a recent interview, adding that her doll was a piece of wood and hole-ridden cookware molded from clay, while the knives symbolized “horrible times.”

Nearby, a 4-meter kite, titled “Hope,” recalls annual flying seasons before the rice harvest. Yet the black sculpture made of heavy ceramic hangs motionless with its tails resting on the floor.

“For me, kites represent freedom,” Ms Maline said. But “in my work, it’s like that freedom has been taken away.”

She said that during the kite-flying season, a good harvest was forecast if a bamboo bow at the front of the kite made music in the air.

Eight masks on the wall, named “New Face,” were reassembled from plaster casts of a model in the manner of reconstructive surgery, she said. “It forms a new face, but it still has scars, and you can see from the face that the person has gone through many things.”

Lastly, a series of large graphite-on-paper drawings show explosions of light and rice grains.

Ms Maline said that she created pieces for the exhibition, titled “Re­m­ember,” to overcome her childhood memories of poverty and con­flict. “My artwork comes out of fear during that time.”

Ms Maline, born in 1982, studied at Phare Ponleu Selpak art school in Battambang and Ecole superieure des beaux-arts in Caen, France.

Erin Gleeson, director of Sa Sa Bassac, said that there were both playful and dark sides to Ms Mal­ine’s art. “Each work is something playful but is also something critical,” she said.

The exhibition runs until May 8.


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