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Dressing up the princesses in art

Taing Rinith / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Dy Lyka, Miss Grand Cambodia, with ‘Robe of a Funan Princess’. KT/Taing Rinith

Cambodian women have been a popular subject adorning the canvas of artists, some big names of whom include George Groslier, Alfred Finot and Nhek Dim, thanks to their beauty, clothing and accessories. Now, for nearly a month, Phnom Penh residents will have the chance to admire these features, reflected in a collection of artworks crafted by two artists in the latest exhibition at the Bophana Centre. Get enchanted with the way both artists combine their different form of specialisation in a single theme, writes Taing Rinith.

CHAN SORPHORN, an artist and lecturer of Painting and Design at the Royal University of Fine Arts, has always wanted an exhibition in which different forms of artwork are showcased. For him, the different kinds cannot do any harm as long as they have a common message.

Therefore, Sorphorn earlier this year formed a team with other four artists, each with a different background, to work on this project.

An instalment showing a unique robe of an ancient Khmer princess. KT/Taing Rinith

“I want to prove that there should not be any discrimination or bias in art, just because of the distinguished ways the artworks make themselves visible,” Sorphorn say.

“We also want to showcase our creative work since it is a common message between the artists to come together regardless of their different skills.”

When it came to the theme, the members were largely detractors arguing intensely before deciding on ‘Cambodian women along with their dress and accessories’. This pleased Sophorn who, since he was a student, has been captivated by the subject.

Unfortunately, three members left the project long before it was finished, but Sorphorn, along with Sambath Udom, a costume designer, eventually made the exhibition She’s Dressing Up a reality.

At its opening at Bophana Centre on Saturday’s evening, She’s Dressing Up presented a number of paintings depicting elegant Khmer ladies and Royal Ballet Dancer, along with female costumes showing a unique style that incorporates traditional and modern design.

“The exhibition also aims at describing the beauty of women and jewellery, with a mix of art, such as clothing, and paintings,” Sorphorn said. “But, there are many messages underneath these artworks, which will require you sometimes to understand.”

Painting of a Royal Ballet dancer at the exhibition. KT/Taing Rinith

Among the artworks on display at the Bophana Centre is “The Robe of a Funan Princess”, a dress that Sorphorn spent months on designing after a long study on historical record and bas relief at Khmer ancient temples. It was the one worn by Dy Lyka, the Cambodian representative on the grand stage of Miss Grand International in Thailand last year.

“Sorphorn has designed several dresses, based on traditional concept for our country’s Miss Pageants, including me,” says Lyka, who came to the opening of the exhibition last Friday.

“It is so beautiful, and I am proud to have worn it and very happy that it is now being shown to the public.”

Another remarkable dress designed by Sorphorn is the Kuy Princess, born out of a mixture of traditional dress, the weaving by the Kuy indigenous ethnic group in Cambodia and a strong touch of contemporary art.

“A closer look into this artwork gives you the message of how effectively the indigenous groups draw from their natural surroundings,” Sorphorn says. “It is also a warning to people who are destroying our natural environment today.”

Meanwhile, Sambath Udom, the graphic designer, exhibits two robes that he has designed based on the dresss worn by princesses in the Western world, especially Princess Diana.

“The robes, simple as they look, are meant to represent natural beauty, gentleness and elegance of a princess,” Udom says.

Artist Chan Sophorn (left) and Sambath Udom, a costume designer. KT/Taing Rinith

“To sum up, our She’s Dressing Up is an exhibition of fusion: past and present, classic art and contemporary arts, and Eastern and Western, but all artworks support one subject: the precious Cambodian women.”

She’s Dressing Up Exhibition is open to the public until October 5.

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