While Brexit Brits are leaving the European Union in droves, two of Britain’s finest BritCool artistes – painter Jo Peel and DJ Danny Rampling – are re-entering Cambodia to bring delight to the discerning.
Fine artist Peel specialises in depicting cityscapes and townscapes which are as important to her as, say, the nature surrounding the urban centers.
Peel last visited Siem Reap in 2018 and her paintings from that period form the basis of a new exhibition curated especially for the One Eleven Gallery titled, “Making Progress”.
The exhibition launches at the gallery on Saturday February 15 from 6pm on and the gallery’s press release waxes enthusiastically, announcing, “As the red dust is slowly swept away and the tarmac rolls over to assimilate Siem Reap into a modern attraction, this is a town in transition, which, through these paintings, Peel explores.
“No stranger to Siem Reap having last visited with her family in 2018, Peel spends her time documenting in great detail her fascination with everyday scenes and scenarios the world over.
“From abandoned east London construction sites to the streets of Tokyo and Pittsburgh, all are captured in her well observed and uniquely executed style.
By drawing, Peel offers her view that these cityscapes are as important to the topographic psyche as the natural beauty of the nature that surrounds it.
“This is not finding beauty in the dust; this is offering a new language to understand what is beautiful.”
Siem Reap’s infamous dry season red dust certainly seems to have made its mark on Peel’s psyche, who, a decade and a half ago, was, like millions of others, first drawn to the town by the temples.
“The obvious draw to Siem Reap is the temples of Angkor and the first time I visited was 15 years ago on a tourist trip through the area,” she says.
“Then I visited again two years ago as my friend has moved to the town and I saw a whole new side of Siem Reap, which is vibrant and beautiful with lots going on but also a really nice relaxed pace of life. This will be my third visit and I’m really looking forward to getting back.
“I’ve created six new original paintings for the exhibition, and also a screen print based on a mural painted in Siem Reap 2 years ago. All of the paintings are taken from images collected during my last visit.
“I’m attracted to the quieter moments that are at odds with the pace of the modern world. Drink carts waiting in the shade, waiting rooms filled with rows of plastic chairs and fuel poured from old whisky bottles.”
Peel is also renowned for her murals, including one she painted at the Mirage Gallery in Siem Reap in 2018. She has also created several short animated films based upon the huge wall murals which she paints and repaints for each frame in a time-lapse process which could take up to three or four weeks for a three-minute edit.
Her “Things Change” short film was shortlisted for best animation at the 2012 Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival, and also attracted over 100,000 views on Vimeo.
As a prelude to Peel’s launch on Saturday, more BritCool is scheduled for the evening of Friday February 14 at The Village Café’s Beat Boutique, with a live appearance of legendary UK house music megastar DJ Danny ‘Happy’ Rampling, who will be spinning, together with his techno decksmith wife Ilona.
Rampling’s CV is overwhelmingly lengthy – his career basically kicked off in Ibiza in 1987 where he discovered the new form of house music amplified by the drug ecstasy (MDMA).
Returning to London, he spread the Ibiza vibe by opening the UK’s first Balearic rave club, Shoom, the birthplace of acid house in London. And the rest is history, with ‘Happy’ Rampling’s credits including playing the main Saturday night slot for the original UK pirate radio station, Kiss, in the 1990s. He was also the first winner of the No. 1 DJ in the World Award by ‘DJ Magazine’ in 1991, and has reportedly sold over one million compilation albums.
He played a gig at the Riverhouse lounge in Phnom Penh in early December 2011, and now he’s back in the Kingdom, gigging at the Village Café, much to the delight of DJ Strangefruit, the nom-de-deck of Stewart Kidd, an entrepreneur who is the Main Man at The Village Café which has been host to several of the world’s leading DJs including Mr C, youANDme from Berlin, and Bulgarian-German DJ and producer Stefan Goldman is booked to appear at the venue on March 6.
But one of the biggest buzzes for Stewart is hosting Rampling.
“I met Danny at the Edinburgh Colour Bomb Carnival in July 2019 with Dominican-American house music dj Roger Sanchez, and asked both to come and play for Beat Boutique at The Village Café,” he says.
“As it happens Danny was coming to Siem Reap for his anniversary with his wife Ilona, who is also an acclaimed DJ from Los Angeles and who will be doing a set with him for us.”
“What I love about Danny – apart from being a visionary in bringing the UK a new sound, Acid House, with fellow DJs including Paul Oakenfold – is his love of the scene.
“He will entertain the crowd with humbleness and a non-pretentious attitude. He loves DJ-ing just as much as the crowd enjoys his sets, and always has time for fans.
“Keep on going on, Danny!”