Monday, April 5, 2010

No faces

The former 4Faces gallery/bar in Siem Reap
The monthly art exhibitions at the 4Faces Gallery in Siem Reap have sadly come to an end, with photographer, part-owner and pal of mine, Eric de Vries relinquishing his interest in the gallery-cum-bar. Eric will continue to live and work in Siem Reap and is looking to relocate his gallery elsewhere in the future. In the meantime he has his SEA/collectiv work to push on with as well as his own projects.
The end of pretty pictures in and on the walls of 4Faces

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The spirit world

If you are in Siem Reap this weekend, catch the opening of the new Jerry Redfern photo exhibition at 4Faces Gallery, a block away from Pub Street. It begins at 7pm on Saturday 30th, just a pity I won't be there. Here's what Jerry has to say about his Be Unscared: A Glimpse of the Cambodian Spirit World in the Everyday exhibition.
This project is a first glimpse into the Cambodian spirit world – as it can be no more than that for an outsider. I have been a photojournalist for years and have worked in Cambodia regularly since 1998. I like to think this gives me a fairly good insight into daily life here. But I also understand that I will never be able to view the Cambodian cosmos as the Khmer do.
That cosmos is a blend of ancient Hinduism (as seen at the temples of Angkor); spirit worship that comes in part from the people who for centuries have hacked lives from capricious jungles; and Buddhism, with its prayers, chants, scriptures, arcane writing and its stories of religious men reborn into worlds beyond this one. We as foreigners know this spirit world exists in Cambodia, but we often miss the common gestures – a twist of the head, a bit of graffiti, a monk's breath, the flames of a candle.
The title “Be Unscared” comes from a sign at the Temple of the Floating Tree outside Phnom Penh, home to a monk with an elephant tusk that people believe can cure mental illness. And while the sign echoes one of the teachings of the Buddha, it also sums up what Cambodians have been hoping for centuries. It's a call for calm in the face of a dangerous world, whether the danger comes from the beasts of the jungle or those in Phnom Penh. On a technical note, the project is done on 35mm color negative film (which itself has become an arcane medium). The film is past-dated, which made it cheap (important for photographers these days) but that also led to a couple of unintended consequences. There are random color shifts in the old film, which are apparent in the inconsistent color of the prints. The old film also left some photos un-useably under-exposed. And then I had to get re-acquainted with taking photos and not being able to see them immediately on the back of the camera. I had to be unscared and trust that I had the images I thought I had seen. Sometimes I did – sometimes I didn't. And sometimes I had better. This exhibit is really just the start of a project I intend to work on for the foreseeable future. In most of these encounters with the Cambodian spirit world, people tell me about other sites, other people, other magic. I really don't imagine I will see all of the Khmer spirit world any time soon.

A new website is up and running for the documentary, Brother Number One, which documents the murder of New Zealand yatchsman Kerry Hamill by the Khmer Rouge in 1978. It follows his brother Rob, an Olympic champion rower, as he retraces his brother's steps and speaks to eyewitnesses and survivors. They are two thirds through filming including Rob's testimony at the ECCC last August and will return to Cambodia for the verdict in the Comrade Duch trial, expected sometime next month. Visit the website here.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

eBay auction

The Vann Nath painting that's for sale on eBay
A Vann Nath painting called Mother & Child of the Genocide, which he painted around 1980, has gone on sale on eBay, in a private auction. All of his other works from that time hang on the walls of Tuol Sleng and are owned by the Cambodian government. There are 9 days of the auction left to go. Its acrylic on canvas and is 31 inches by 21 inches.

Photographs rather than paintings will be the focus of an exhibition opening tonight at the Chinese House on Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh. Eric de Vries' recent trip to meet the troops stationed on top of Preah Vihear mountain are the basis of the 20 pictures on show in the exhibition, which begins at 7pm tonight. It's called Khmer Standoff and will run for the next eight days before part of the exhibition will be moved to the Grand Hotel d'Angkor in Siem Reap for another showing. His assistant and my good friend Now has just arrived in town on one of her very rare outings to the capital to be present at the opening night and a few of her own photos, taken on the same Preah Vihear trip, are on sale in Eric's 4Faces gallery shop in Siem Reap.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Hot stuff

An early night is on the cards as I'm up at 5am tomorrow morning for a dawn visit to Ta Prohm. I must be mad. I've just has dinner at 4Faces with Now and Eric de Vries after spending all afternoon with them, firstly at Neak Pean and then at the closed temple of Ta Nei where Eric was called in to take some pro photos of Hanuman's safari tent, which we set up next to the temple itself. It was hot work as there was no wind around Angkor this afternoon. It went very well, though with Now and myself as people extras, I'm not sure how much damage I've done to the pictures. This morning I collected some guests from the airport and we made a bee-line for Preah Ko and Bakong at Roluos before an excellent lunch at FCC preceded our afternoon fun and frolics.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sells' sights

The latest exhibition at the 4Faces Gallery in Siem Reap will be 'Olympic - Sights from the Stadium' by Nick Sells which will give even greater exposure to the football and sports activities that take place at Phnom Penh's Olympic arena. Nick's photos appear in the Phnom Penh Post a few days each week, accompanying the football reports (that I often write) and other sports. His exhibition, at the gallery-shop run by another pal of mine Eric de Vries, will begin tomorrow and last until 25 September. Get along to the exhibition if you are in Siem Reap over the next month, as Nick captures some great sporting action at the stadium and deserves your patronage.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Snapper supreme

Now in her new role
Eric sent through this photo of my great friend Now in her new role as his assistant, and she looks at home I must say. Eric is a professional photographer with a gallery and bar in Siem Reap (4FACES) and he was looking for an assistant to help out at the gallery shop, with admin and on photoshoots, especially as he's just tied-up with the Raffles Grand Hotel in the town. I suggested Now even though her experience has been limited to selling souvenirs at the Angkor temples and helping her family with rice-planting. It was a long shot but I knew that Now was keen to find a different path and gain more life experience, and so far it seems to be working like a dream. She rang me a couple of days ago whilst she was working out how her lap-top works and now this photo of her with the camera, looking to get the ever-popular monk shot. She's due to go to Preah Vihear temple later this week by motorbike for a photoshoot - she says she will be safe as she knows some of the policemen there from Angkor - and every day brings her new experiences, exactly what she had dreamed of. Its hard to describe how proud I am of her. I well up just thinking of it.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Absolutely chuffed

I currently have a smile as wide as the Mekong River. My pal Eric at 4FACES Gallery in Siem Reap was looking for an assistant to help him at the gallery shop and with his admin, so I suggested another very good friend of mine, Now (pictured), who has up til now been selling souvenirs at Angkor Wat and Banteay Kdei, or more recently planting rice in her family's fields. Well this morning, she went to meet Eric for an interview, they got on like a house on fire, and she starts work on Monday as his assistant. Which is simply wonderful news. This will be a whole new experience for her though of course she already has good people skills having talked thousands of tourists into buying her souvenirs over the years. Her spoken English is pretty good, having taught herself by reading the books she sells and using her language skills to clinch a deal either in English, Japanese, French and so on, like many of the souvenir-sellers at the temples. She's on a month's steep learning curve as Eric has agreed a tie-in with the Raffles Grand Hotel and has to plan for an exhibition coming up at the hotel in October called Retrospective (2000-2009). As I type this my smile is getting even wider. I am so chuffed for my two friends.
Link: 4FACES

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An unguarded moment

Hello Darling... at 4FACES gallery in Siem Reap. photo courtesy of ericdevries
I don't think I will be able to get up to Siem Reap in the next few weeks to see the latest photographic exhibition at 4FACES by the gallery owner himself, Eric de Vries. Damn. We've been pals for a while now and I'm pleased that things are are on the up with the opening of his cafe-bar-gallery, a block away from Pub Street in Siem Reap, whilst at the same time taking on the responsibilities of fatherhood with the arrival of C'moon. He's also showing part 1 of his Hello Darling... exhibition throughout July that focuses on the girlybars in and around 104 and 136 streets in Phnom Penh. One of the exhibition photos was taken in an unguarded moment during a visit to one of the bars we made together purely in the interests of researching the background to the story you understand. As it's the first time I've been in an exhibition to my knowledge, I will take a small crumb of comfort from that. You can read more about the forgettable incident here. There's also talk of Eric having an exhibition at Raffles' Grand Hotel d'Angkor in October, so even more good news. Link: 4FACES.
I drop my guard for a few seconds and look what happens. photo courtesy of ericdevries

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Forthcoming at 4Faces

The next two exhibitions set for the 4Faces Gallery in Siem Reap, run by my pal Eric de Vries, will be a selection of city & buildings photographs by another friend, Steve Goodman, who has just had his solo work published in the new To Myanmar With Love guidebook. Steve's exhibition called Unnamed Undefined Unclear will open on 29 May. And then on June 26, Eric's own collection called Hello Darling will be on show. Don't miss them if you are in Siem Reap.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

4Faces opens for business

Inside 4Faces, with the exhibition wall on the right
Although I wasn't able to be there, I hear the opening of the 4Faces gallery in Siem Reap on Friday went very well for my pal Eric de Vries and his wife Lida, and the gallery's opening weekend continued yesterday and today, with photographer Tim Page being the first exhibition on display and the man himself being in residence all weekend. I hope to get up to see the gallery as soon as possible and wish Eric, Lida and everyone involved the best of luck with their exciting new venture. Make sure you have a look when you are in Siem Reap.
The outside of 4Faces with customers enjoying a drink on Friday evening

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

4Faces - opening this Friday

This Friday, 24th April, the brand new 4Faces Gallery-Cafe-bar-shop will open in Siem Reap. Make sure you pay a visit and speak to my pal Eric de Vries - he's a genial host and a top photographer.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Art explosion

Ian Whittaker's Wat Phnom - oil on canvas, selling for $360
Trying to keep up with the number of art exhibitions taking place in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is almost impossible these days. There seems to be a new exhibition opening on a daily basis and whilst some of it isn't anything I would write home about, it's all down to personal taste and preference, and the more the merrier as far as I am concerned. I would never wish to put a lid of the current explosion of art we are experiencing, especially art from local Cambodian painters, sculptors and photographers, which I feel is so important that they get their work shown and seen by a larger public. One of the most visible of Cambodian painters is Chhim Sothy, who recently had a solo exhibition in town which I visited and reported on here. He's got another set of paintings on show, this time alongside Australian artist Ian Whittaker at Meta House, under the banner of Life of the Streets which will run until 22 April. Over at Java Cafe today, David Harding opens a new exhibition of his paintings called Minerallos which will run until 2 May, whilst the Bophana Center welcomes 20 works from 16 Cambodian artists in its' Still Water exhibition that will open on Friday. And don't forget that Eric de Vries' new 4Faces Gallery-Cafe will be opening in Siem Reap on 24 April.
Chhim Sothy's Old Buildings in Phnom Penh - oil on canvas, sale price $1500
Another Ian Whittaker take on life - Salon, oil on canvas, selling at $380

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

4Faces opening soon

A pal of mine, Eric de Vries will open his new gallery-cafe in Siem Reap very soon - 24 April to be precise - and the following story appeared in the Phnom Penh Post during my absence last week. In addition, Eric has launched the 4Faces website at

New Cafe Gallery

Siem Reap photographer Eric De Vries spent most of the weekend in Phnom Penh hunkered down with award-winning war snapper Tim Page to select a range of photographs to display at the opening of De Vries' new cafe gallery. Page has an ongoing exhibition of his iconic Vietnam War photos at Phnom Penh's Meta House and will now launch "almost the same" exhibition in Siem Reap. The Tim Page exhibition will debut in Siem Reap at the launch of De Vries's new cafe gallery, 4Faces, scheduled to open at the end of April in the street running parallel to Pub Street, near the Maharajah Indian restaurant.

De Vries, a member of the Asia Motion Photo Agency, said 4Faces will schedule new exhibitions every month on a specially-created 13-metre "black wall". Hopefully Dutch-born De Vries will not succumb to modesty by refraining from exhibiting his own works, as his arty black-and-white pieces have gained an international reputation, and an exhibition of his photos from his recent book, This Must Be the Place: Images of Cambodia, toured throughout the Netherlands. In June 2006, FCC Angkor exhibited his funky "Blues for Buddha" series, which documented the varied Buddha sculptures found in Cambodia and Thailand, including unusual Buddhas sporting Fu Manchu goatees and what looked like a Jimi Hendrix-style afro haircut.

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