HOME, LOST AND FOUND
For its very first exhibition, Batia Sarem Gallery is pleased to introduce Home, lost and found., featuring works by Yim Maline and Svay Sareth. These two major Cambodian artists live and work in Siem Reap. Svay Sareth works across different medias, using video, installation, sculpture and performance, sometimes all together. In the most recent times, Yim Maline has mostly been drawing.
Nevertheless, with different means, both focus on the same subject. That of Home, threatened or even destroyed, but preserved against all odds. Few are the Cambodian artists who do not delve into the question of disappearance. Their works often seem to be a way of preserving that which is at risk of perishing. There are few other art scenes where one feels such urgency to « re-create ».
In this new series of drawings by Yim Maline entitled Colorful Decompositions, fragility inhabits a nature under tension. All the drawings displayed are remarkable for the large size of the formats and the use of very bright colors. But the brilliance of the colors is often nuanced by a part, as small as it is, of bands of gray forms, which evoke calcination or emptiness. In Colorful Decomposition 10, in which several circles intertwine, wreaths of flowers are ordered in the manner of a Frenchgarden (or a coronation). Green and pink circles form an organic geometry. But she added ablack crown that disrupts the luxuriance of the whole. Mushrooms ? A circle of ashes ? In this newseries, Maline pushed further the tensions that characterizes her work, between the possibilities of decomposition and the ability of nature to regain its rights. Maline’s Home is a garden dreamed and sublimated. However, she does not forget that beside nature re-enchanted by the imaginary,there is always the possibility of loss, even in her most joyful and brilliant drawings. Nature coexistswith the eventuality of its own destruction.
For Sareth, nature is present by the frequent use that the artist makes of camouflage fabric, which is nothing more than a crude imitation of a natural environment. But camouflage embodies for Sareth the attempts of survival of men and women struggling for themselves. Because at home, it is thehuman being who is threatened with extinction andwho must constantly confront such an eventuality. The large seated woman, entirely covered withthe camouflage pattern, is one of the highlights of this exhibition that embodies the theme of Home.Impressive in size and technique, she represents the artist’s mother, who survived in refugee camps, the birth of many children, surrounded by the military.
To cover one’s mother with camouflage is, first of all, to act as a memory in honor of a woman whocan adapt in adversity. It is a recurring theme for Sareth to demonstrate the ability of an individual to prevail despite the circumstances.
The art of Sareth can be described as redirecting his creative energy, a process that enables him to create powerful works, such as this installation made of sandals used by the Chines and Vietnams Communists, as well as by the Khmers Rouges. To see them today sold as usual consumer goodshas exasperated Sareth and from this exasperation came the crazy idea to make a performative useof it. In the video I, Say Sareth, eat rubber sandals, the artist stages himself front of the camera andchews, mute and inexpressive. Sareth consciously uses the absurd as a means of communicatingserious thoughts. Art here is born of a revolt, a pain, a wound that needs to be healed.
Sareth’s Warning Houses, are also part of this path that starts with revolt, articulated into art. These in situ installations are ephemeral, made of waste found in the surroundings of the place wherethey are exhibited. They represent a challenge to all those who make it feel to the foreigner thathe is not at home. Warning Houses are as the precarious shelter of refugees in a camp, it is the temporary hideouts that anyone establishes in any place, from scratch.
The two artists have in common to put at the center of their work the subtle tension between precariousness and resistance. Maline and Sareth were both made aware of the ephemeral nature of what is given to us. The possibility of loss is always present in their work. But both have in common the faculty of believing in a home, whether it is in each of us, within our memories or imagination, or incarnated by a work of art.
PREAH KUNLONG / WHERE IS MY LAND
For its second exhibition opening on April 20th, 2019 Batia Sarem Gallery has chosen to present two installations of Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang.
The first installation, Preah Kunlong consists of a video, photos and masks of animals. It is dedicated to the Areng Valley located in the southwest of Cambodia, one of the wildest areas of the country, inhabited by an animist community, the Chong. The choreographer and dancer Rady Nget is photographed and filmed wearing masks, performing a dance in the middle of immaculate landscapes. The second piece is entitled Where is my land?, An installation of photos and a video featuring Rady Nget improvising a dance around the Mekong River, where murderous landslides have occurred, consequences of the intensive exports of the sands of the river.
Both installations are representative of Samnang’s work. The artist conducts a careful and quasi-anthropological field investigation, whether environmental degradation that impacts the Mekong River or threats of deforestation related to the construction of a dam with multiple consequences on local communities. He then digests this raw material by introducing poetry and humor and using any medium he deems relevant, such as video, photography or sculpture. To a speech too readable, Samnang prefers the use of human body The artist constantly celebrates the fusion of the human being with what surrounds him. The dancer’s trance in Preah Kunlong becomes the vehicle of unity found with the spirit of the animals of the forest. In Where is my land? the improvised dance and poses underline in an overwhelming way the pain inflicted to the river and its residents. The experience of Samnang’s works is subtle and sensual. It is the incarnation and the permanence of the souls, against the external aggressions, that Samnang captures by images with elaborate compositions, rough and playful masks and captivating videos.
Khvay Samnang is today one of the most recognized Cambodian artists on the international art scene. Therefore Batia Sarem Gallery is proud to present these two striking installations. Independent curator and art critic Caroline Ha Thuc’s text, first published on the website www.cobosocial.com, seems to us a very enlightening complement to the experience of Preah Kunlong’s vision.
BATIA SAREM GALLERY
Bamboo Street, Wat Damnak, Sala Kamreuk Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia
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