Late last year, painter Sin Rithy found himself completely broke. Depressed, he browsed through photos of friends on his phone and came across one of a fellow painter.
“I felt an urge to paint him,” he said. “I couldn’t even afford canvas to work on. So I did it on paper with a small amount of acrylic paint and watercolor.”
And in the process, he rediscovered his love of life. “It was a revolution in my way of thinking, behaving and in art,” he explained.
The outcome is a powerful portrait of a man in grey and black tones, his eyes reflecting strength and depth of thought.
This painting, which Mr. Rithy simply entitled “Portrait 2,” is part of a retrospective of his work currently on display at Romcheik 5 Gallery in Battambang City.
As can be seen in the show’s 20 paintings, which date back to 2009 but also include many new works, Mr. Rithy tended to use bright colors and multimedia techniques at the beginning of his career, then moved progressively toward portraits and ethereal images done in muted colors and shades of grey.
In his work “Victim 1,” a young Cambodian appears in profile in grey and brown tones against a reddish brown background. In “Lost,” a deer barely visible behind a blue-grey fog gazes at the viewer.
As far back as Mr. Rithy can remember, he has never wanted to be anything but an artist. “I started painting when I was a very young kid,” he said. “The first work I did was the head of the Buddha on paper.”
Originally from Anh Chanh village near Battambang City, Mr. Rithy studied at the nearby Phare Ponleu Selpak art school. He graduated in 2010, and his work has since featured in numerous exhibitions in Cambodia and Thailand.
“Painting is my life,” the 25-year-old artist said. “When I paint, I’m in another world.”
The retrospective exhibition, entitled “Endlessly,” runs through March 21.