Besides our guest artist exhibition — including Anida Yoeu Ali, Chhim Sothy, Chov Theanly, Sao Sreymao, Sopheap Pich, Vutha Thor, Sothea Tang, Erick Gonzalez, Miguel Jeronimo and The New Cambodian Artists — PenhArt launched an Open Call to both Cambodian and international artists.
We would like to acknowledge the wide variety of work presented in this first edition of the PenhArt Open Call, more than 80 applications, and thank all the artists who submitted their art. We had a group of five respected artists and curators evaluating all the submissions towards a coherent selection that represents PenhArt vision on contemporary art currently being created in Cambodia.
Scroll down to read more about their criteria, and here it goes the official list of selected artists, 36 in total with more than half being Cambodian and the other artists from 11 different nationalities!
PENHART 2021 Contemporary Art Fair:
Aurelie Fischer (Belgium)
Anya Syrtsova (Canada)
Ariel Mario Tudela (USA)
Bob Passion (France)
Carlo Santoro (Italy)
Chan Phoun (Cambodia)
Chhum Channa (Cambodia)
Christopher Bryce Morris (USA)
Claire Taddei (France)
Fawaz Aziz Rob (Bangladesh)
Flori Green & Le Curieux Melange (France)
Gizard Dakota (France)
Hao Taing (Cambodia)
Hour Seyha (Cambodia)
Kanha Hul (Cambodia)
Koem Keosocheat (Cambodia)
Koeurm Kolab (Cambodia)
Kosal Vuthy Reach (Cambodia)
Laly Berthet (French)
Lavy Long (Cambodia)
Luu Han Seng (Cambodia)
Morn Chear (Cambodia)
Nikita Pirogov (Russia)
Raphael Pech (French-Khmer)
Rida Srun (Cambodia)
Ry MoniSovanya (Cambodia)
Shunsuke Miyatake (Japan)
Sovann Chanra Alan (Cambodia)
Steven Gargadennec (France)
Syahrulfikri Salleh/Ajin (Malaysia)
Tan Vatey (Cambodia)
Vannak – Chandy – Pisey (Cambodia)
Vodka/Im Sam Oeun (Cambodia)
William Graef (USA)
As a curational decision we presented all the entries to the jury as a blind evaluation, i.e. anonymously in order for the selection to be done without knowing the artists’ names or have criteria such as age or nationality being part of the decision. Of course evaluating art is always a subjective endeavor, so here we present statements by the members of the jury on how they decided to rate the artworks presented.
To begin with, contemporary art would have to be dissociated from current art. The term contemporary or the label contemporary art does not respond to temporal criteria. The classification of contemporary art is intended for a specific type of art and not just any work. It must be recognized then, that within the expression contemporary art, there are already two words that are misleading. Art, like the concept of science or philosophy, among others, has a definition that has been evolving over the centuries. The question is: what do people understand by art? I think this question is pertinent because personal vision will determine one’s way of judging current works. I believe that the history of western art marked the criteria so much that, in the present moment, it is difficult to understand art in any other way than that of so-called modern art.
The other word, contemporary, should not be taken literally in its historical-temporal sense nor should it be taken as the equivalent of “current”. In fact, most current artists do not make “contemporary art”, in my opinion they do rather modern art. Contemporary art is a self-referential category that responds to criteria that are relatively easy to identify. One of them is the interest of artists to seek to give priority to the conceptual aspect over the formal aspect. The idea is more important than the form. This represents a different creative process and perhaps this is the main reason for the distancing of the general public with this type of art (even today, many people still prioritize beauty, technique and formal appearance).
Other aspect would be themedium: the use of alternative forms of creation such as performance, videos, happenings, actions, installations, photos, etc. The list is long, but I dare to say that the main idea is not to expose a finished and digested work, ready for the public’s appreciation. The work of a contemporary artist exploits its conceptual qualities and its social capital. What influence will the art object have in its social context? What are the questions that will awaken in the public? In my point of view, the contemporary artist creates an artistic event rather than a work to hang on a wall. The contemporary artist is interested in observing his social environment and interpreting it, questioning it, highlighting its faults and certainties.
My philosophy as a member of the PENH ART jury is to stimulate artists who seek to develop some qualities that I consider necessary for the creation of a work: sensitivity, intelligence and critical sense. I personally appreciate art from almost any historical period, classical art, Renaissance art, modern art, contemporary art, or otherwise, but my philosophy is that one cannot be qualified by the criteria of the other. Renaissance art, for example, had its own criteria and codes: form, perspective, composition, color, etc. And if we apply these criteria to contemporary art works, we will find ourselves in a situation of misunderstanding, frustration and even rejection. But not only the technical aspects count, for me a complete work is one that rests on three pillars: the conceptual, the aesthetic and the emotional. The one without the others cannot give an artistic work the category of work of art.
Artists, I would like to thank you all for having submitted your projects. If your work has not been selected it is because it may not meet these specific criteria, but this does not mean that we question the quality of your work, it is only a matter of coherence between what we are looking for to show at this art fair and the works we have selected.
When first asked to be one of the jurors, I had reservations about accepting the invitation for an event I have no participation in organizing. Upon seeing these roughly eighty entry submissions, I was encouraged by not only the sheer amount but also the variety and quality of the works. Without names of the artists attached to the works, I could only guessed that there were both Cambodian and foreign artists represented. To me this is a good thing as it represents the artists in Cambodia as a community.
The organizers asked the jurors to grade each work on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 being the weakest and 5 being the most relevant. Relevant, in my case simply means what I think was the strongest on the scale. This grading system is tricky as art is ultimately subjective and therefore I am aware that the issue of who is qualified to judge will come up.
My approach then was to first go through each submission one by one, taking into consideration all the qualities of art I know when I make and when I look at art – such as emotion, skill, complexity, labor, ambition, individuality, expression, subject matter, quality of the presentation, etc.
This is difficult as we only see the submissions on a computer screen so at best this is a photo image of the real thing: without regards to the scale, texture, medium and the installation aspect of the works. A video on a TV is different from one projected on a wall, etc. There is no substitute for the real thing but this is what we had to work with in this case. Though, we must also acknowledge that this model is the prevailing system that’s being used all over the world today.
The one thing I tried to avoid, as a juror, was to reject a work or an artist. I think every submission should be given serious considerations and we can all benefit from trying to be as inclusive and encouraging as possible. But the scale is 1 to 5 and I’ve graded based on that scale. And given that we have a handful of jurors with different backgrounds, it will be interesting to see how each comes to his or her conclusions. Ultimately, we are all different and that’s what makes looking and making art challenging and rewarding.
My criteria is focused on looking for good concepts and extreme ideas. Also the technique used, the medium, balance, equilibrium of color, etc. and which topics the artist addressed, especially themes that are relevant today in our world, such as environment, covid-19 or the war. I gave higher scores to artworks talking about these sort of topics, like the development in the city or climate change, politics and poverty, and strong ideas such as the refugee crisis. I enjoyed seeing artworks talking about the loss of culture and the struggle of survival, for the past or nature to not be lost.
In the beginning, it was a bit difficult for me because the organizer sent us only the artworks from all applications without their background and their previous practice.
As my curatorial approach for making an exhibition or judging something, I need to have information about the artist; to understand their work and artistic practice. But for this case, my approach for this judgment is essential looking into each submission one by one, slowly and carefully, to understand each application before giving them a score. Furthermore, I also try to look at other angles and use another methodology.
My methodology for the score I divide into three parts. Firstly, I pay attention to each body of work concerning their medium and techniques. Secondly, the relationship between their work and concept does something interesting to say and get me into experimentation or exploration. Lastly, I also pay attention to how artists approach their critical thinking and making an object/work, as an abstraction way of exploring their artistic practice.
I foreground works that forge creativity, imagination, and thoughtfulness with clear relevance to our present realities. These works seek to explore the possibilities of contemporary visual language while offering and communicating ideas worth hearing.