Artist Explores Human Nature in Series of Nude Paintings

About five years ago, Cambodian artist Heng Ravuth embarked on a journey—exploring human nature through the naked body.

For his latest exhibition, “Drunk Nude,” which opens Wednesday at Phnom Penh’s Java Cafe & Gallery, the 31-year-old painter has depicted the male body, distorted in different settings, reflecting the nature of people devoid of their trappings.

 ‘Strawberry Man,’ from Heng Ravuth’s series ‘Drunk Nude’ (Yean Reaksmey)
‘Strawberry Man,’ from Heng Ravuth’s series ‘Drunk Nude’ (Yean Reaksmey)

Each work is the result of a long process, during which he first amplified and altered photographs of himself with editing software and then transformed the resulting images using pencil and paint. The outcome is a series of multilayered acrylic paintings in which the superimposed visual elements create a collage-like impression.

“This gives me the freedom to create my own distorted reality… reflected as twisted and offbeat,” he said.

In “Naked With Dog,” a nude, tattooed man sits on a dilapidated armchair. He has a two-sided head, each side with a mouth and nose, as if attempting to keep watch over all corners of his world.

In “Picnic Nude,” men are sitting or lying in a pile on the ground. Wooden buildings in the background suggest a waterfront nearby.

Born in Phnom Penh, Mr. Ravuth graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts and later trained as a photographer. His work has been shown abroad several times, including in Singapore and Canada.

For his series “Innermost II” last year, he painted male nudes in a classic style reminiscent of Greek sculptures of two millennia ago, or those of the Italian Renaissance in the 1500s.

This time, Mr. Ravuth has adopted a contemporary, surrealist style. “I do strive to get better and make each painting as technically creative as I can,” he said.

The exhibition opens at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and runs through September 30.

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