Exhibition to showcase life in Cambodia’s markets

Takakazu Yamada and Chhan Dina pose with paintings of market life to be on display beginning this evening at The Plantation, and running until March 19.
Takakazu Yamada and Chhan Dina pose with paintings of market life to be on display beginning this evening at The Plantation, and running until March 19. Hong Menea

Japanese painter Takakazu Yamada and local artist Chhan Dina unveil their new exhibition tonight – a series of paintings around the theme of Cambodian markets.

Market-Disoriented, which was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of 65 years of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Japan, is a colourful portrait of life inside the country’s markets, from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to Mondulkiri.

Yamada is the founder of his eponymous school of art based in Phnom Penh and a guest lecturer at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and Royal University of Fine Arts.

Dina is a local artist whose vibrant work, which often depicts the natural world, has been exhibited in France, Singapore and elsewhere. For Dina, the exhibition is a chance to highlight the everyday hub of activity central to so much of daily life in Cambodia.

“Activity in Cambodia, especially in the market, is very interesting. You see many things, all together,” she said.

One of her pieces, primarily in blues and greens, shows a woman’s face surrounded by fish, fruits and vegetables.

Yamada, meanwhile, was inspired by the friendliness within the markets he visited, which he found to be a marked difference from the demeanour of people in his native Japan, whom he said seem tired and rarely smile.

One of Yamada’s paintings depicts a young girl in a Siem Reap market with the wares at her stall – an assortment of marionettes, or ah yorng in Khmer – hanging on her left and right.

Though the subject matter by the two artists is similar, their styles are vastly different. Yamada uses a startling precision and sharp outlines in his work, while Dina’s work features swirling layers.

“We are very different artists,” Yamada said, adding that he was attracted to Dina’s work, which he described as strong and bright, when he saw an exhibition of hers at the former InterContinental Hotel in Phnom Penh.

For the two, having their work side by side is a chance to show local artists a range of what is possible on the canvas in a country where modern and abstract art is slowly emerging.

“I think it’s important that people come and learn about abstract painting, and maybe in the future they can recognise more abstract paintings,” said Dina.

Ever the teacher, Yamada has his sights set on a similar demographic to his students: young creatives.

“The new generation of artists, this really is my target,” he said.

Market-Disoriented opens tonight at The Plantation – Urban Resort & Spa at 6:30pm, and it will continue until March 19.