Updated: Mar 2, 2022
20 artworks by renowned Cambodian artist Leang Seckon have been commissionned by the prestigious Hong Kong Gallery Rossi & Rossi. A preview exhibition in Phnom Penh gives us the opportunity to marvel at the inner world of the "star catcher".
Seckon (b. 3 June 1970, Prey Veng Province) was born when the US governement started its secret bombing campaign on Cambodia, andd grew up during the Khmer Rouge terror. These formative years as a farm boy watching his father's buffalos in the open country, surrounded both by the bounties of Nature and the dangers of wartime, are reflected in his artistic approach, his quest for harmony.
In a recent interview with the online review Südestasien, he recalls that ¨I didn't know art growing up, but by the age of four I had a drive in my heart and a vision in my head that motivated me to process my impressions. This included colors, the sun, the beauty of nature. Despite the Khmer Rouge, I could see the sky and the sun, breathe the air. That stimulated my imagination.¨ At that time there was no art, no education and no creativity. I already tried to process this experience with my exhibition Hell on Earth, presented in London.¨
Later on, after he studied at the Royal University of Fine Arts and became one of the most distinctive talents on the Cambodian scene, we followed his exploration of Khmer visual tradition, his own reinterpretation of ancient symbols and aesthetics. Yet he always remained, and remains to this day, the farm boy trying to reach the stars with his hands and mind by a countryside bright night. The star catcher.
Left, Leang Seckon during Khmer New Year 1999 in Prey Veng (photo Chris Lawson); right, with fellow artists and friends in 2020.
Says Marina Pok: "A few months ago, I met Seckon by chance in an alley near Backyard Café, he invited me to his studio, showed me his latest artwork and asked me to help him show the pieces commissioned from Hong Kong to the Phnom Penh public before shipping them there. We talked about peace and war, harmony, the meaning of art, and we've been exchanging daily since. It is a great honor to contribute to this exhibition."
US bombers painted on one of his mother's sarongs. "It is like being protected from the war, seeking refuge under my mum's skirt", says the artist. Now, Seckon is creating a painting protesting the war in Ukraine, which will be sold at the 31 March event, the proceeds going to a Ukrainian humanitarian organization.