When Mirage, Pure Evil and Tribe converge

Peter Olszewski / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The two Londoners, Nat Di Maggio and Terry Mcllkenny, proud owners of Tribe Cambodia. Supplied

Siem Reap art lovers will find that all their Christmases have come at once in the next few days, thanks to cultural treats such as the Angkor Photo Festival, an exhibition of international press photos hosted by Mirage Contemporary Art Space, and the arrival of Pure Evil at the opening next Thursday of Temple Town’s newest art gallery- cum- cocktail- bar, Tribe Cambodia.

Tomorrow, the Angkor Photo Festival and Workshops kicks off its fourteenth year, running through to December 14, and showcases the work of more than a hundred photographers from more than 40 countries.

On December 14, Mirage Gallery will launch the World Press Photo exhibition.

Mirage, which originally opened in September 2016 as Mirage Skate Café, has now been transformed and relocated to a chic downtown space.

Hosting the World Press Photo exhibition through to January 7 next year is a special privilege, according to co-founder, Canadian expat Serey Siv.

“In 2017, I was selected by tutors of the Angkor Photo Festival & Workshops to participate in their photography master class,” he says.“Mirage, then in Wat Bo, was the temporary office of the photo festival, and when Mirage moved to the new space, Jessica Lim, the newly-appointed director of the Angkor Photo Festival contacted me to see whether we were interested in hosting the exhibition.”

Finbarr works on a street painting in Siem Reap.

But the big buzz in town is about the grand opening of Tribe Cambodia’s café Gallery on Thursday, December 13, and the launch of the gallery’s first official exhibition, ‘London Calling,’ showcasing the work of UK-based street artist, graffitist and gallery owner Pure Evil aka Charles Uzzell-Edwards, with the distinguished artist himself present to leave his mark in the form of street art.

Tribe Cambodia is the new passion of two Londoners, Nat Di Maggio and Terry McIlkenny, who have been heavily immersed in the hip UK urban street art scene. The duo decided to settle in Siem Reap this year, after coming to Cambodia regularly on holidays.

“We have been coming to Cambodia every year for the past seven to escape the British winter,” says Terry, whose background is in executive coaching and leadership and board development for corporates in the City of London.

“Two years ago we went to Battambang to Phare School and met the founder teachers. We were touched at a very deep level by their work and total commitment to rebuild the Khmer artist community and wanted to help.“Having a passion for art, being collectors and sometime curators, we decided to use our connections and network in the art world to help.

“After some deep thought we decided we could only do this if we moved our life here. So we packed up everything and moved to Siem Reap to open Tribe.”But just before opening Tribe, the dynamic duo completed a project in Battambang with the help of another high profile London-based street art exponent, Finbarr Dac.

Launch of Finbarr’s art in Battambang. Photo: Supplied

In Battambang, Finbarr completed a 10-meter mural of a female guardian, ‘Anapyabal’ at Phare School where, as Terry says, “She will overlook the students every day, and through global sales [of prints] will generate enough to send seven students through a full graduate programme.”

Finbarr also came to Siem Reap for the soft opening of the Tribe premises and painted a mural on a nearby building, much to the initial consternation at of the women sidewalk vendors at the site. But their concerns transitioned to glee when they saw the finished work.Nat Di Maggio, the other half of the Tribe ownership duo, is steeped in community art, with a long track record in London.

“I worked for many charities in my local area, in particular a community-based art centre, created by the community to encourage, develop and showcase local artists of every discipline, and to provide a hub for connecting,” he says.

“My focus was on organising exhibitions, curating and fund raising. With our contacts in the art world I was able to seek and secure support from many international and Turner Prize-winning artists including Grayson Perry.

“In 2016 I was recognised by the London Borough of Waltham Forest and awarded Citizen of the Year.”

Nat notes that it wasn’t that difficult to convince high-profile London artists such as Finbarr and Pure Evil to come to downtown Cambodia.

Mirage art space in Siem Reap. Photo: Supplied

“On our visits to Cambodia we were struck by the artistic talent, but the subject matter always seemed to be orientated towards the typical tourist images,” he says. “When we met the founders of Phare in Battambang, we began to discover many, many talented Khmer artists. They were talented but lacked exposure, commercial awareness and many did not see their art as their career.

“We went back to London and told this story to many of our artist friends who wanted to help. All have agreed to come to Cambodia to meet with artists, share their experiences and run workshops to help them become commercially viable as artists. All have agreed to leave a street image for the Khmer people. ‘

Terry adds, “This is now our home, it is our intention to bring international artists to exhibit, share their stories and help the Khmer artists understand how it is possible to be global and financially successful, with each of them sharing skills and experiences through workshops.”

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