Fresh off the back of their success with their first exhibition I Don’t Belong Here, the three offbeat young Cambodian creatives who make up the Homeless Artists Collective are now hosting their second show, 180°, in Siem Reap, celebrating their shared passion for contemporary art, music and fashion.
For their second project, the three self-professed “weirdoes” – Shanghai Chang, KWN23 and Many Sin – will open in Siem Reap’s Mirage Contemporary Art Space on Friday for their two month-long exhibition on what unites them beyond their friendship, exploring their experiences leading a new generation of contemporary artists in Cambodia.
Many Sin – a 29-year-old self-taught contemporary artist who, ironically, graduated with a BA in Banking and Finance from the University of Battambang, but now produces installations, paintings, sculptures and photography – explained the inspiration behind the collective’s name.
“As the group’s name suggests, we are seen as homeless people due to our clothes. In fact, the two other members, when they walked down the street to buy fried noodles from a cart vendor, people handed them money because they thought they were beggars,” he explains, chuckling to himself.
The title of the exhibition, 180°, refers to the group’s diverse approaches to their artistic processes, heavily rooted in the experimentalism of contemporary art and bucking Cambodian tradition.
“180° is a very important exhibition for Mirage,” says Serey Siv, the gallery’s director. “We are also a collective of artists and creatives. We understand the power of working together, experimenting, bouncing ideas off each other, getting inspired. Collectives also offer the feeling of support and this is exactly what we want to do – support and work with other artists.”
Emerging art scene
The exhibition showcases Shanghai Chang’s textiles, KWN23’s paintings and Many Sin’s steel sculptures and screen prints. 180° is a deeper exploration in their collective thoughts and will allow the artists to present their work with new meaning to Siem Reap’s emerging art-scene.
Shanghai Chang – a 23-year-old classically trained textile designer who graduated with a BA in Fashion Design and Photography from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology – will exhibit his dresses inspired by 17th century European fashion.
“His designs take the viewer back in time to his childhood ambition of becoming a ballerina; a challenging dream for a boy from a modest Cambodian family in a society of strongly predetermined gender roles,” say the event’s organisers, speaking of Shanghai Chang’s creations.
Humanity and relationships
Many Sin’s prints and sculptures explore the well-being of humanity and the complex inter-relationships between ourselves and our surroundings in a struggle between the other and the self, the community and the individual.
KWN23 – real name Sosoth Sovankong, a 21-year-old self-taught graffiti artist – was inspired by a mix of Sanskrit script, European graffiti and his lifelong attraction to urban decay, as well as street art’s naturally transient nature. This transience is important for the artist and reflects his Buddhist beliefs in reincarnation and the circularity of life.
In line with his beliefs, KWN23 refuses to buy any artistic equipment, instead using jackfruit, old toothbrushes or his fingers to paint. It is not unusual to find him out on the streets of Phnom Penh at all hours, painting or collecting materials for his next projects.
To pay tribute to the idea of circularity of life present in KWN23’s work, the event’s organisers have encouraged attendees at the opening night of the exhibition to participate.
“We encourage our guests to participate in a little experiment,” says Kasia Sumislawska, Mirage’s communications manager. “For the opening night we invite our guests to bring their own clothing items, preferably cotton t-shirts. The guests will get a chance to print one design, learning the silkscreen printing technique and giving their old garments a second life. The same way KWN is producing his artwork, up-cycling and innovating.”
Homeless Artists Collective’s 180° exhibition opens at the Mirage Contemporary Art Space on Okhna Oum Chhai Street in Siem Reap town on February 15 and runs until April 15. There will be a wine reception on the opening night hosted by Les Celliers d’Asie.
To find out more information about the exhibition you can visit Mirage’s Facebook page (@MirageSiemReap) or the Homeless Artists Collective’s Facebook page (@homeless.artistscollective).