Oeur Sokuntevy is a young Cambodian artist whose colorful and planar depictions of women references both traditional and Western art. Emerging from a culture torn apart by war and now rebuilding itself, the artist deals with the disparate values of traditional and modern culture. (scroll down to read more)
The traditional role of the Cambodian woman is one of subservience and dependency on the man. This idea comes from the Code of Conduct for Women (Ch'bab Srey) which was once heralded as the pinnacle of Khmer culture. This ideal is slowly being overturned by young generations in favor of a more assertive, independent, and sexually aware female.
The women depicted are in domestic or social settings. The conflict of the idealized Cambodian woman as distinct from its counterpart suggests there can be no reconciliation. The clearly outlined colors and shapes are immediately associated with traditional paintings-their composition and often flattened appearance are echoes of Cambodian murals and textiles that depict epic love stories from the Ramayana. Love is still the theme but the setting is the 21st century. Her folk art sensibility harkens back to the Western movements of Magic Realism and Primitivism.
In Sokuntevy's works there is a sense of alienation because in contemporary Cambodia the traditional woman is still heralded over the modern one. However at the core of the struggle to upturn entrenched views, lies the question: "Where do I fit in?"
Dana Langlois - Java Arts Gallery, Phnom Penh, Cambodia