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YOU KHIN (1947 - 2009)

Collection Overview | Biography | Chronology | Images | Press

You Khin - Statement on the Art

The artist's paintings are influenced by his extensive travel and focus on people of all races, especially women. Khin was most interested in their living conditions, their work, their happiness and unhappiness. In Cambodia, after his return from exile, he mostly painted portraits. The meaning and emotionality behind his paintings are punctuated by his powerful brush strokes. Inspired by the Sanskrit word sutra, meaning rope or the thread that binds, Khin wove string through his paintings to convey the concept of togetherness. His work tells the dream of a better world, free from oppression, poverty and misery, a world of harmony where people come together regardless of their culture or background.

From 1975 to 1979, the reign of the Khmer Rouge forever altered the lives of an entire population. While the death toll is staggering, it does not fully reflect the lasting severity of this monstrous time in human history. Literally overnight, the regime destroyed Cambodian society, leaving the country in a political, economic and cultural vacuum. Entire cities were emptied, property was destroyed, money became worthless and families were splintered. Society ceased to function. Cambodia was brought back to "year zero."

In 1973 You Khin traveled to France on a four-year art school scholarship. These four years away saved Khin from the horrific Khmer Rouge years and quite possibly death. Cutoff from his country and true extent of the genocide, Khin became a French citizen and took a job in the Sudan. As an outsider and a refugee, he was sensitive to the inequities of life. The loss of freedom was major theme and Khin paid tribute to his fallen compatriots and his beloved Cambodia by painting peace doves and later chains and locks

For thirty years You Khin worked, lived and traveled around the world. In 2004 he returned to Cambodia with a body of work reflective of those different cultures and experiences. However, more than a travelogue, Khin's paintings are a poignant record of one artist's voice and a stark memento of a once vibrant Cambodian artistic and cultural scene. These paintings along with the others he painted until his death in 2009 are the only remaining examples of Cambodian Impressionism.