Cambodia's own recent history seems to be in more than one mind throughout the Cambodian art scene currently. That said, there is something very distinguishing about Leang Seckon's new exhibition SKIN currently showing at Java Café and Gallery.
In Cambodian art, Seckon's evolution as an artist is ubiquitous. The work in SKIN is an accumulation of the artist's aesthetic, technical ability and thought process, which for some, collectors and fans alike, has brought him to a pinnacle in his already established career.
Experiencing these 15 sophisticated and characteristically witty oil paintings is like gorging oneself on Cambodian culture. And although Lang Seckon's paintings embody the essence of Cambodia, one can not help but be drawn towards hidden meanings, symbols and signifiers that make this work more personal, charged and sexy.
SKIN as Dana Langlois writes in her introduction to the show, refers to the border between our internal selves and external elements that affect our state of being, how one relates to the world and the contact point between us and others. In a more literal way Seckon utilizes leather and snakeskin relief, often concealing their own story, to contribute to this well conceptualised painting ensemble.
As usual, pop culture meets tradition, ideals of beauty and vanity are laid bare, and specific characters play the leading roles. Seckon has tapped into his own kind of nationalism. Throughout, kings and queens symbolize the paternal and maternal nature of things, most prevalent in his works titled "Bloodline 1" and "Bloodline 2". Here the artist juxtaposes placards with the typical iconic images of HRM King Norodom and his Queen of Cambodia, over more recent events such as the UN and Red Cross interventions. Its no secret these signifiers show the relationship of the generations, the father - the UN / protection, and the mother- the Red Cross / nurture.
In some works more scandalous scenarios are played out and offerings are made. Characters from the deck of cards exchange secret glances, and other paintings show elements of exposure, hierarchies, vulnerability and defeat, all suggestive of what can take place behind the closed doors of Cambodia. This is most strikingly observed in Seckon's painting "Loplai" where privacy and public are intertwined in a comical yet revealing scene.
Over the past year Seckon has honed in on the ever-present issue of the environment and recycling, a vital and trendy concern around the world at present.
"The Rubbish project" fashion parade in May 2007 in collaboration with artist Fleur Smith saw his concerns realized in the form of recyclable fashion.
In the art scene he is the latest protagonist of issues based art, and we can see this perfectly executed in his self portrait aptly titled "Rubbish Project", a self confidant elucidation and a subtle message from the artist of things to come.
"SKIN" - March 6th to March 31st Java Café and Gallery, Sihanouk Boulevard, Phnom Penh
"Water is Life"
A 200 metre long recycled plastic Naga appearing on the Siem Reap River in front of the FCC Angkor 22nd March 2008, World Water Day
Festivities will include a Recycled Fashion Show/Performance and refreshments at FCC Angkor starting at 6:30pm