Portrait Exhibition Profiles City Posers and Rural Farmers

The faces of rural rice farmers and fashionable city youth appear side by side in a joint exhibition, “Farmers & Freshies,” currently at Sa Sa Art Gallery in Phnom Penh.

The exhibit highlights two emerging artists with very different backgrounds. One of them, 21-year-old Nov Cheanick, 21, grows crops in a village in Battambang province; the other, fashion-conscious Ouk Sochivy, 25, is a student in the capital. But both depict the people around them.

Mr Cheanick said he applies water to paper before adding black ink, which blurs to form eerie and distorted faces.

The farmers he paints do not stop working to think about wider issues and are often baffled by his artwork, Mr Cheanick said.

“Sometimes the farmers like the pictures, [but] often they do not understand art so I try to tell them about it.”

In contrast, Ms Sochivy, wearing striped socks and a high ponytail during an interview on Saturday, is a self-admitted “freshie” and part of the new fashionable urban generation she paints.

Ms Sochivy said that when she creates her child-like pictures, she always outlines the body first, then neatly fills in clothes with block color. Like a stylist, she then adds accessories like jewelry and sunglasses.

Ms Sochivy said that her grandfather, the late folk artist Svay Ken, taught her to paint, and she uses his naive technique to depict youth pop culture.

“Our everyday associations relate to the subject we chose. For example, where we grow up, our access to information and environment. If I lived in the province I would not paint the same pictures.”

Co-curator Lyno Vuth said that he united the two young artists because both paint portraits using different subjects and techniques.

Ms Sochivy carefully styles her figures, but Mr Cheanik’s process is unpredictable, depending on how the ink and water spread, Mr Vuth said.

“The contrast of farmer and freshie is a bit playful,” he added. “While many people look at new role models of young people, we should not forget the role others have in the country.”

The exhibition runs until Sept 15.


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