Exhibition of contemporary Apsara paintings now open

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The Abstract Apsara Dance exhibition at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra. Heng Chivoan

Nineteen pieces of contemporary paintings by talented local artist Teang Borin, who focuses on the hand and foot movements of traditional Khmer Apsara dancers, are to be exhibited at the gallery of the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra hotel.

Having started on May 15, the exhibition is to run for three months until the end of July.

Borin said his work had received greater interest from local audiences over the Covid-19 pandemic, with a number of them having been purchased.

The collection of paintings in the form of Apsara dance and royal dances in a variety of styles, such as Tep Apsara and the Royal Ballet, have been kept by Borin – known as Din – for the exhibition after the two years of the Covid-19 crisis.

The 40-year-old Cambodian – who has become known as the “Apsara dance painting artist” for his highly creative and lively paintings – is currently committing all his time on painting for sale instead of utilising the skills he learned at architecture school.

“I have 19 paintings for this exhibition. There are two types, including 12 large and small contemporary paintings of Apsara dance and royal dances, and seven abstract paintings.

“I have been saving all of the works I made over the more than two years of the Covid-19 crisis. I have had only one opportunity to exhibit them, at the Rosewood Hotel Gallery in 2020,” he said.

While in the past, around 70 per cent of his paintings were bought by foreigners, over the past two to three years, the momentum of support for his artwork has changed, he said.

“During the Covid-19 crisis, I could see that interest mostly came from Cambodians, with Khmer people it seems seeking more understanding about art and strongly supporting local artists.

“During this period, foreign art lovers seem to have had less interest in paintings embedded in the Khmer character, so my contemporary paintings are proving more popular among wealthy Cambodian clients than foreigners.

“Foreign clients can find it difficult to bring large paintings back to display at their house in their home country, with unfavourable travel conditions due to the pandemic,” Borin said.

Borin’s smallest Apsara Dance and Royal Dance paintings – 30x30cm – cost $75, while the largest – 1.6 x 2.5m – go for $5,000 per piece.

Born into a Kampot family, Borin has two sisters. After completing high school in Kampot, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in architecture at Norton University in Phnom Penh in 2001, graduating in 2005. He started his career as an architect at Yianko Associates from 2008 to 2014.

Borin said that one aspect of being an architect that he missed was working as part of a team on a project, which could take months or even years to complete, while artists work alone.

And this was one of the reasons that he decided to start his own company in 2015, he said, which he called DinArt Gallery.

Borin’s Apsara Dance paintings have proven so popular that one was purchased by Professor Roux Francois Xavier to present to King Norodom Sihamoni in 2020.

“DinArt is very honoured and thankful to professor Roux Francois Xavier for purchasing a DinArt painting for King Norodom Sihamoni,” Borin said in a Facebook post in July 2020.