Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The art of Svay Ken

Svay Ken's Khmer Rouge Hospital at the Meta House exhibition
Another of Cambodia's leading painters currently on exhibition at the Meta House's Art of Survival show is Svay Ken, now 75 years old and regarded as the country's foremost contemporary folk artist. Combining oil on canvas with a highly personal style, he documents scenes from everyday life as well as past, often traumatizing, experiences. Although painting was a tradition in his family, he is completely self-taught, having spontaneously begun to paint in 1993, the year Cambodia emerged from more than two decades of dark social turmoil – and the year he returned to his job as a waiter at the Hotel Le Royal, where he first began to work in 1955. His subject matter, always filled with people, includes individual and group portraits as well as scenes from the 1970s recalling the dislocations of the civil war and life during the murderous Khmer Rouge period. One such painting is this offering to the exhibition of a Khmer Rouge Hospital scene. You can find out more about Svay Ken in his book, Painted Stories, which tells the story of his family from 1941 to the present time in paintings and narrative.


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