‘Breaking the System Is Not Bad’: Artist Paints for Freedom

Is there such a thing as true freedom?

Or is it impossible to escape pressures from family, friends, lovers, work, society or oneself—no matter how much one tries?

Nov Cheanick’s mixed-media work “Ways of the World” (Marceline Chauveau)

This is the question artist Nov Cheanick raises in his latest exhibition “Break the System,” held at Battambang City’s Sangker Gallery.

“Human beings live with pressure within themselves and are also affected by social pressure,” he said. “Nobody wants to work or live under pressure, but one cannot avoid it.”

And what looks like oppression to some may feel like freedom to others, he added.

“One born at night in the dark may view the world as just being darkness,” he said. “But those born in daytime and opening their eyes for the first time in the light of day may say that the world is rich with nature and so bright.”

To express this, he turned to mixed media. Working with both oil and acrylic paint, he used mostly dark tones, at times creating relief on the surface of the mostly abstract works. Wires and sticks jut out from some canvases.

One work, “Ways of the World,” evokes a tempest, with broken sticks and other detritus strewn across a dark blue background and splashed with thick white paint and specks of color.

Mr. Cheanick said the idea of the exhibition had been in his mind for a few years, and that the recent political strife in the country gave him the impetus to complete the works.

The series refers, he said, to “politics, love and human life. It requires us breaking the system in terms of the way we think of making ourselves free of pressure.”

“Breaking the system is not bad,” he added.

Born on January 1, 1989, in Site II refugee camp in Thailand, he and his family eventually returned to a village on the outskirts of Battambang City. Like many children of poor families, he worked in Thailand for some time before enrolling in the Phare Ponleu Selpak’s art school in Battambang.

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