The theme of the second Cambodian Fine Arts Contest last year was “Cambodian Portraits” and, as can be seen with the 15 winning entries now exhibited at The Insider Gallery of InterContinental hotel, this translated into depictions of familiar Cambodian figures.
More than 400 participants registered for the contest in 2013, which led to 186 works being submitted, said Takakazu Yamada, a Japanese artist who teaches at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) and also runs the Yamada School of Art in Phnom Penh.
Artwork entitled ‘Cambodian Portrait’ by Yem Da (Siv Channa)

“All Cambodians 18 to 30 years old were welcome to apply,” said Mr. Yamada who set up the contest in cooperation with RUFA. “I always hope to find and foster new young artists.”
The jury included RUFA teachers, Cambodian, Japanese and French artists, as well as representatives from the National Museum and the Japanese Embassy.
The winners’ styles and techniques vary although their approach tends to be modern in a classic 20th-century way.
In Sok Sereymony’s painting “Looking to the Future,” the face of a stoic young woman is shaped out of deep blues, browns and reds with a large city in pale blue in the background.
In Doung Sopheak’s pastel work “Mother and Child under a Lemon Tree,” a young child standing behind an adult in a wicker basket looks straight at the viewer with a grave face, the image done in muted grey, brown, red and blue.
Theak Bunthon rendered the face of the widely revered former Supreme Patriarch Chuon Nath through infinite dabs of brown and beige. Sao Sovannara portrayed an old country woman with a krama around her head in an image nearly photographic in its precision. And, using pastel and an illustration-style technique, Yem Da sketched the smiling faces of a Khmer classical dancer, girls, and women around an image of the serene face sculpted on the Bayon monument in Angkor.
“These portraits were very close to Cambodian idea and experience,” Mr. Yamada said. While young artists should look into what is being done around the world and not hesitate to experiment, he said, “They must keep their Khmer feeling.”
The exhibition runs through*March 10.
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