Cambodian artist Oeur Sokuntevy may have named her latest series of paintings “Human Nature,” but one should not expect the familiar scenes this title could suggest.
Entering her world is akin to venturing into a surreal universe in which the fantastical rules.
Still, no matter how unusual a scene may seem at first glance, nothing is gratuitous in her works: Every detail, whether unexpected or plain strange, carries a deeper meaning that might be obvious or fall into the realm of the subconscious.
The series of acrylic paintings, which will be exhibited at Java Cafe from Wednesday, is about how humans share the planet with animals, Ms. Sokuntevy explained.
“I’ve tried to make the connection between people and animals living together in a beautiful environment,” she said.
In the painting entitled “Towards the Unknown,” a man lies on a boat deck next to a large monkey—also lying down—with a tree spread out next to them. A small bird flying close to the boat watches on. This illustrates, the 31-year-old artist explains, “How we and animals share the same universe.”
Survival in such a world may involve dilemmas and, at times, hard choices, she points out. In her work “Empty Promises,” an older woman feeds monkeys while squatting on a grassy shore with the ocean in the distance. Above her head floats an isle of greenery topped by a hut sheltering a mother and child. The older woman, Ms. Sokuntevy explains, “cares for the animals. She tries to feed the monkeys. But on top of her head is her family she has to take care of: Is she going to feed the animals or will she give the food to her family?”
Ms. Sokuntevy, who studied at the Phare Ponleu Selpak’s Arts School in Battambang City, has lived in Phnom Penh since 2007. Her work has been exhibited in Cambodia, the U.S., South Korea and Singapore.
The exhibition, which opens at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Java Cafe, will run through June 7.