Juice drink cans depicted in paintings by Vietnamese artist Bui Cong Khanh are not available at stalls across the region. And instead of juice, the cans contain concepts and social issues.
“Sleep Juice,” “City Juice,” “Folklore Juice,” and “Cyclo Juice” are among eight colorful oil paintings, which are on display at jGallery in Phnom Penh until August 28.
Mr Khanh says that the series points to a modern expectation that life’s experiences can be as cheaply and easily bought as cans of juice.
“People who have money think they can buy anything, but some things like these [labeled on the cans] you cannot just buy and drink,” Mr Khanh said during an interview.
For example some people believe expensive religious offerings secure wellbeing while others spend money on beer girls thinking they can buy love, Mr Khanh said.
“I take something you cannot buy and put it on the can,” Mr Khanh said.
Somewhat ironically the “Juice” paintings are for sale priced at $2,500.
On display in Ho Chi Minh City, “Juice Power” shows a Vietnamese stereo system through which the government in the past blasted propaganda and which still give public information to some areas such as Hanoi, Mr Khanh said.
Working in Vietnam, Mr Khanh said he is not restricted in what he paints and that official licenses to display artworks from the cultural house are now easier to get.
JGallery owner Dana Langlois said that to her knowledge it is the second exhibition by a Vietnamese artist in the capital in ten years.
“[I]t is a pre-cursor to a new market dynamic which will place Cambodia in the regional context and allow artists to move through borders,” Ms Langlois said.
Mr Khanh collaborated with Cambodian artists Pich Sopheap and Leang Seckhon for an exhibition at JavaCafe in 2006.
At the opening Mr Khanh performed “Dollar Man” sticking copies of $100 dollar bills over his face and photographs of the act by Bui The Trung Nam are on display this month.
People come out of poverty to become obsessed with money until it blinds them, Mr Khanh commented. “They are now rich but do not care about anything else. Money covers their point of view,” Mr Khanh said.