In an exceptional partnership between 16Albermarle Project Space and Sa Sa Art Projects, contemporary Cambodian artists are their explorations of the nation’s history and the evolving socio-political landscape at a new exhibition in Sydney, Australia.

All That Surrounds Us stands as a testament to the nation’s arts scene, curated by Lauren Elise Barlow, Vuth Lyno, Chum Chanveasna and Moeng Meta. The exhibition, running October 7-November 11, presents an array of multi-disciplinary artworks, encompassing installations, paintings, sculptures and digital prints, each resonating with the voice of its creator.

“Incorporating artworks by 12 emerging and mid-career artists, ‘All That Surrounds Us’ introduces fresh Cambodian art to Australian audiences, offering a unique lens to delve deeper into the country through its art,” said a statement from 16Albermarle Project Space.

The exhibition presents a wide spectrum of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, architecture, photography, installations, videos and works on paper. These pieces originate from regions across Cambodia.

Collectively, the artists explore themes that have emerged in the modern era. Established artists concentrate on the daunting task of healing a society scarred by multi-generational trauma, while also celebrating the remarkable resilience of its people. In contrast, emerging artists tackle subjects such as corruption, urban growth, the increasing urban-rural divide and environmental decline.

“These young artists collectively draw attention to urgent issues concerning Cambodia’s path and its place within the broader Southeast Asian context,” said the exhibition’s organisers.

Among the 12 featured artists, Eng Rithchandaneth creatively utilises fired clay, raw cotton and bamboo to explore urbanisation and power structures, while Neak Sophal’s digital print Straw delves into the essence of Cambodian society.

Diverse artistic perspectives

Eng Rithchandaneth, a 30-year-old Phnom Penh native, underwent art classes at Sa Sa Art Projects and holds a bachelor’s degree in design from SETEC Institute in the capital.

Neak Sophal, a 34-year-old hailing from Takeo province, graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) in Phnom Penh and is gaining recognition for her distinctive aesthetic and continuous exploration of societal themes.

Roeun Sokhom’s watercolour Old building at street 1 and Sao Sreymao’s acrylic canvas Koh Pdao - Past and future both encapsulate the dichotomy of past memories and future aspirations.

Roeun Sokhom, a 36-year-old from Battambang, completed his studies with Phare Ponleu Selpak in 2008 and has become a prominent figure in Battambang’s art scene.

At 37, Sao Sreymao, also from Battambang, engages in an artistic practice encompassing painting, photography, digital drawing, sculpture and performance.

Younger artists, such as Chea Sereyroth and Mao Sovanchandy, address contemporary challenges, tackling social issues, urbanisation and environmental concerns.

Sereyroth, 33, pursued painting at Phare Ponleu Selpak in 2005, while Sovanchandy, 25, earned a degree in architecture from Paragon International University in Phnom Penh and furthered her art education at Sa Sa Art Projects.

Also hailing from Battambang, both young artists pose thought-provoking questions, urging viewers to contemplate Cambodia’s direction and its place within the Southeast Asian community.

Pen Robit, a 32-year-old graduate from Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang, focuses on painting. His artwork Beautiful Day reflects the Kingdom’s socio-political landscape.

At 34, Pen Sereypagna, from Phnom Penh and a PhD student in architecture and urbanism at the University of Hong Kong, explores urban form and modernist architecture in his artwork. White Building’s Schizoanalysis.

Yim Maline, aged 41 and from Battambang, addresses cultural symbols and themes of loss and ambiguity in her art, including Rainy.

Prak Dalin, 27, from Kampong Cham province, merges architecture with art, creating installations like Monk 1 from bricks, reflecting urban development.

Than Sok, 39, from Takeo, explores spirituality through sculpture and installation, with Kbach Teuk (Water Lily Form) as an example.

Thang Sothea, 40, from Kampong Cham, self-taught and with a background in architecture and urban planning, utilises traditional materials in his sculptures and installations, such as Disruption.

The exhibition venue, 16Albermarle Project Space in Sydney, was founded in 2019 by art enthusiast John Cruthers. Since its inception, the space has championed Southeast Asian art, striving to acquaint the Australian audience with the region’s multifaceted landscape.

Their approach is inclusive, often hosting public programmes, school visits and study tours to expand the reach of artists.

In parallel, Sa Sa Art Projects, established by the Stiev Selapak art collective in 2010, remains the pillar of contemporary Cambodian art. They bridge the gap between art and education, fostering an environment where artists can freely express, share and support one another.

“This exceptional exhibition offers a glimpse into the Kingdom’s intricate world and stands as a testament to the resilient human spirit,” said Chum Chanveasna, the manager of Sa Sa Art Projects.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or a curious observer, All That Surrounds Us guarantees an enlightening experience.