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Untapping Memories

The Archaic Monsters exhibition at Sofitel Phnom Penh entices us to venture into a bright-colored, neo-surrealist universe where apparent normality becomes the stuff of dreans.

Hailing from former Yugoslavia yet steeped in French culture, Kris Marko (1975, Paris) has been a comic strip artist (known as Dikeuss), a wanderer who tried his hand at many odd jobs and spent some time in Africa before settling down in Cambodia in the 2010s. The Kingdom of Wonder’s cultural environment stimulated his visual expression, in which, beneath a seeming22ly whimsical and even kitschy symbolism, runs what he calls ‘dialectical art’, remarking on the ‘ambivalence’ of his paintings, “each and everyone unconsciously reflecting on duality, life/death, beauty/ugliness, eros/thanatos.”

“I was introduced to Kris’ art in 2021, when he presented his significant other, Princess Norodom Chansita, with a portrait of her on her birthday”, recalled Marina Pok, the head of Anicca Foundation who helped in setting up the current exhibition, his first one as a visual artist. And she added: “Sita is a dear friend of mine, I’ve been knowing her for many years and yet on that picture, surrounded with her cats, with elaborate trimmings all around this apparently familiar image, there was suddenly a dream-like quality, some subtly meaningful symbolism: a ‘trick’ that only true artists can perform on us.”

Combining exuberant splashes of color, somehow Slavic in their vitality, with elaborate, intriguing ornaments, Kris Marko works on the hidden, untapping persistent memories, psychoanalyzing himself in each artwork by letting his unconscious explore his own questioning -- on social responsibility, family emancipation, guilt, and so on. The stuff of dreams, we said, and of visual poetry.

Above: A portrait of the late HRH Princess Norodom Buppha Devi (1943-2019), Royal Ballet of Cambodia prima ballerina and director, former Minister of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia.

Public opening 3 November 2023, from 6 pm, Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra (by invitation only). Archaic Monsters exhibition will run till 2 January 2024.

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