The Male Form Predominates at Gay Pride Art Exhibition

Although artists were given the far-reaching title “Gender and Sex­uality” for the Phnom Penh Pride art exhibition which began last week, most artworks depicted the male body.

It is photographed, drawn in pencil, painted with broad brushstrokes and outlined in curly layers of oil paint mixed with rice and felt.

The works at New Art Gallery in Chamkar Mon district this month are also mainly by men—Em Riem, Teang Borin, Alan Flux, Viet Le and Nick Sells—though female multimedia artist Oeur Sokuntevy also contributed.

Lyno Vuth, co-curator and manager of Sa Sa Art Gallery in Cham­kar Mon district, said that he hoped to convey the diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ex­periences in Cambodia but that few artists work on this theme.

“We tried to show as full a picture of the community as possible, but unfortunately we could not find artwork talking about lesbian is­sues,” Mr Vuth said.

Mr Flux, an artist who is also co-curator, said that when he realized that all the images were of men, he submitted female nude drawings to even up the gender balance.

“We wanted a mixed show be­cause there were a lot of drag pieces last year,” Mr Flux said, so this time only Mr Sells exhibited energized photographs from drag shows.

Ms Sokuntevy’s multimedia pieces of men embracing were first shown at Salt Lounge, a bar near Phnom Penh’s river front, in 2007. In the most striking of these, two men clasp hands so their arms create the outline of a third in between.

“I want to highlight the underground world of the gay community,” Ms Sokuntevy said in a statement. “These feelings are natural…. They should not be subjected to any taboo.”

Although the exhibition focused on sexuality, some of the artists ap­peared to wish to escape being defined by this. By e-mail, Mr Rim, who works in painting and design, de­clined to discuss his sexual orientation: “You can look at my artwork as an artist,” he said.

The Kandal-born artist said in a statement that through his nude self-portrait—a black and white photograph printed on a playing card—he claims freedom as a man and an artist. “As an artist, I am not shy,” he said by telephone.

Teang Borin, from Kampot, similarly said he did not want his work to be seen as a result of his sexual orientation: “I am gay…but this does not make my work gay,” he said. He exhibited two abstract paintings, one of a man’s chest in black and white, and another of a man’s back in green and white. “The image is not very shy, it is proud of itself,” he said, referring to the first. “When I was painting, in my mind I thought this is me and I am very proud of this.”

The lack of female subjects re­flects the situation in Cambodia and also the world, according to one pride organizer, Colette O’Regan.

“It’s the story of life. Women are always more marginalized. Les­bians are marginalized within a marginalized community,” Ms O’Regan said, adding that last year was the first Pride in which lesbians participated.

Phnom Penh Pride week ends today, coinciding with In­ter­national Day Against Homo­phobia but the exhibition runs until June 10.


Related Stories

Latest News