Artist Sheds Light on Daily Cambodian Life Through Canvas

When visitors walk into the opening show at the latest art space in Siem Reap, they should feel as if they are looking at life in a Cambodian community reflected back at them like a mirror.

That’s the hope of the artist, Piseth Has, and the organizers behind his exhibition at Strangefruit&Jam Portrait Gallery.

Drawings by Piseth Has, whose exhibit ‘Us’ debuts at the launch of the Strangefruit&Jam gallery in Siem Reap. (Tom Whittaker)

The contemporary New York-loft-style gallery on the second floor of The Village Cafe aims to give guests a space where they can “have a coffee, read a book, and just look at portraits,” according to Stewart Kidd, who hopes it will fill a hole in the Siem Reap art scene.

Mr. Kidd and his creative partner David Ramjattan originally planned to open the gallery early next year, but brought the date forward after seeing the artwork of Mr. Has, from Battambang City.

“We saw his work and were just amazed by it,” Mr. Ramjattan said. “We decided we just had to create this space for it.”

Called “Us,” the work is a series of portraits drawn on brown paper with charcoal pencil, depicting the likeness and expressions of people the artist interacts with in his community.

“He was just excited to show daily life in Cambodia,” Mr. Ramjattan said. “He captured the essence of what a normal, everyday Cambodian looks like.”

The result is a feeling like you’re looking into “a mirror of the community,” he said.

Mr. Has, who was born in Battambang province in 1992 and is a graduate of Phare Ponleu Selpak’s Visual & Applied Arts School, had agreed to create nine pieces, but produced 15 in the end. Eight of those he did in just two weeks.

It will be his first exhibition outside Battambang.

To get the gallery ready in time, the two creators knocked through two apartments to make one large open space and completely renovated the second floor in just three weeks, finishing with two days to spare before its opening tonight.

Exhibits in the gallery, which will be open Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. until late, will rotate every two weeks, with another Battambang artist, Long Kosal, lined up next.

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