Song Kheang; Heading for the Stars

Billy Otter / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

The talented and versatile Song Kheang at his first exhibit.
PHNOM PENH, (Khmer Times) – Song Kheang’s phone rang and it was a call that would, perhaps, change his life forever. Nyda Chan asked him if he would like to have a solo exhibit at the hotel InterContinental Phnom Penh. 
Going from a store-front gallery in Siem Reap to a 5-star hotel exhibit space is an opportunity that many artists would sell their pallets and mortgage their souls to be offered. Nyda Chan found Song Kheang’s site when surfing the Internet. “I was very impressed with his work. He uses intense colors and he conveys a strong sense of the images and icons found in the Cambodian culture.”
The Colored Stones exhibit of 12 paintings offers a variety of themes and motifs from apsara dancing to elephants.  The elements the works share, however, includes strong colors and small sectioned pieces. His work captures the essence of the Kingdom from an almost child-like perspective that draws on his individualism and disregard for tradition.  
On becoming an artist
The oldest of seven from a poor farming family in Kandal province, Song Kheang, now 35, didn’t plan to be an artist. “I always wanted to go to university, but there wasn’t enough money so I had to work.” He started off selling food and then branched into making frames and mixing paints for an artist.
Once in this environment, he started to dabble and then became more serious about developing his talents. This informal internship lasted for about six years, and his confidence as an artist grew. As well as painting,  Song Kheang also pursued his interest in the wall carving and sculpture genres.
“When I first opened my gallery near the old market area in Siem Reap, I was a bit worried about whether it would be successful or not. But art is my passion and my life. It is all I really want to do.”
 “Most of my customers are Australians and Canadians. Some are from Singapore and Malaysia. Cambodians who live abroad also buy my work because they can see how closely it is connected with the culture of their homeland.” 
The pieces vary in price from about $400 to $1,300. To supplement the paintings, the shop also manufactures t-shirts and makes frames.
What happens after a successful exhibit at the Intercontinental? Song Heang isn’t sure, “But it is very exciting for me because it is the first time for me to show my work.”
Stefan Voogel, the general manager of the InterContinental, bought a piece for his personal collection.  He commented, “The hotel tries to help up-and-coming artists by providing the space and the help to exhibit their work. We enjoy working with these people who might not otherwise have an opportunity for a show.”
Colored Stones opened Thursday July 3 and runs until August 1, 2014 at The Insider Gallery on the second floor of the InterContinental Phnom Penh. 

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