His arrival in Siem Reap has been given rock star status and why not, because London’s fine artist Carne Griffiths is a bit of a celeb himself, billed globally as ‘the organic artist’.
He’s also painted celebs such as Kylie Minogue and Kate Middleton, although he jokingly tells Good Times2 that one famous woman he draws the line at painting is Theresa May – “For the good of the many, not the few,” he quips.
On the eve, Carne will complete a live drawing, which will become the major raffle prize.
During his time in Siem Reap, Carne will also contribute some street art to the walls of Coconut Alley next to the Gallery – this little laneway already boasts mural art by another high- profile London-based artist, Finbarr Dac, who also visited Siem Reap last year.
Then on Sunday, April 28, Carne will open his exhibition at Tribe Art Gallery, which will run through to May 31.
Carne Griffiths is known as ‘the organic artist’ because he works with natural colors, dyes, calligraphy inks, graphite and liquids including tea and vodka to create “dreamlike art.”
In some works, Carne adds embroidery and this harks back to his career beginnings – he was an established embroidery designer in London for 12 years at the world’s longest established gold wire embroidery firm, where he became creative director.
He produced designs for theatre, film, fashion, advertising and the military. His designs were used for the uniforms in the films The Last King of Scotland and Valkyrie, and his ‘Red Death Coat’ design was used in the Phantom of the Opera.
In 2010 he started up his own painting studio and began to travel the world, which influenced his work to some degree.
“I’ve always loved to travel, and getting to show work in different countries and cultures always has an influence on my work,” he says.
“Sometimes this is in the form of expectation versus reality. Before an exhibition you may and try and anticipate a mood or atmosphere but on visiting find the reality quite different. This was certainly the case with exhibitions in Hong Kong and Dubai.
“As a result I am learning not to try and second guess an audience but to paint honestly and passionately with an open mind. The time to reflect is after the exhibition, when details such as natural shapes especially in flora will creep into my work. I am sure this will be the case with the Tribe exhibition too.
“I have received very favourable reactions to my work in both Hong Kong and Singapore, possibly because of the familiarity with ink works on paper. I also think that the balance of freedom and controlled detailed pen work focusing on nature sits well within these cultures.”
Now he is here in Siem Reap and explains how this came about.
“I worked closely with Nat and Terry, the founders of Tribe Gallery, when I was based in East London. They are collectors of my work but also do incredible things for important charitable causes so our relationship allows me to channel my work into doing something good.
“Our previous projects together have involved creating murals in East London to raise money for a local food bank charity and also creating auctions of artwork to raise awareness and money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, which is a charity close to the heart for me.
“I was invited by Tribe to show work in Cambodia and jumped at the opportunity. It is a part of the world that I haven’t yet visited but have always been keen to see. The opportunity to help important local causes through the show is also hugely appealing.”
Tribe Art Gallery co-founder Terry McIkenny adds, “We connected over 10 years ago when Carne was organising a charity event for Great Ormond Children’s Hospital in London.
“We have been friends, collaborators and collectors of his work ever since. His unique skills set him apart from his contemporaries.”
As Siem Reap emerges as a global art centre, the cross pollination with international artists helps the local scene mature and proliferate.
Siem Reap’s One Eleven Gallery is the sister gallery to downtown San Francisco’s 111 Minna Gallery and shares the same founder in Eiming Jung, and One Eleven co-owner Danny Melham visitor interaction with the US gallery adds inspiration to local artists.
Tribe’s co-founder Terry McIkenny also stresses how important inspirational visits from artists such as Carne Griffiths are.
“His presence allows us again to demonstrate to Khmer artists the possibility of art as a livelihood”, Terry says, “As collectors and people connected to the art world, we felt that the revival of Khmer art was of paramount importance.”
He adds that when he and Nat came to Cambodia, they hoped that artists they knew in London such as Carne would support them.
“We have been delighted and surprised by their willingness to come to Cambodia to help us and the wider art community,” he says.
“Every day we are proud of what we have achieved so far and continue to be surprised and delighted by the Khmer people. Dreamers are an essential part of any culture.”