“Elemental” by Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich at H Gallery Bangkok

In his third solo show at H Gallery in Bangkok, Sopheap Pich presents a major new work.

Since returning to his homeland in 2002, Pich has created a delicate yet intricate style in his sculptural works.

Installation of Sopheap Pich, "Elemental" 1 December to 29 January 2017 at H Gallery. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Installation of Sopheap Pich, “Elemental” 1 December to 29 January 2017 at H Gallery. Image courtesy H Gallery.

From 1 December 2016 to 29 January 2017 Sopheap Pich presents his solo show at H Gallery Bangkok. Entitled “Elemental”, the exhibition includes a number of new works that build on key themes in his creative practice.

Installation of Sopheap Pich, "Elemental" 1 December to 29 January 2017 at H Gallery. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Installation of Sopheap Pich, “Elemental” 1 December to 29 January 2017 at H Gallery. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Considered one of Cambodia’s more prominent artists, Sopheap Pich was born in 1971 in Battambang before moving to the USA in 1984 with his family. He studied at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and later completed an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999. In 2002 he moved back to Cambodia where he is now based. His experience during the genocide of the late 1970s has influenced his work, in particular his investigation of time, memory and the body.

Sopheap Pich, 'Bricks Before Palaces', 2016, bamboo, rattan, wire, 160x162x81cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Sopheap Pich, ‘Bricks Before Palaces’, 2016, bamboo, rattan, wire, 160x162x81cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Pich’s work has been exhibited in many international platforms and institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2013), the Singapore Art Museum (2015), the Moscow Biennale (2013), Documenta (2012), the Asian Art Biennial (2011) and the Singapore Biennale (2011). His work has also been widely collected, including at institutions such as the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Singapore Art Museum and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Sopheap Pich, 'Light Green Channel', 2016, bamboo, rattan, wire, burlap, plastics, oil paint, beeswax, dakar crystal, charcoal, 152x172x11cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Sopheap Pich, ‘Light Green Channel’, 2016, bamboo, rattan, wire, burlap, plastics, oil paint, beeswax, dakar crystal, charcoal, 152x172x11cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Pich’s work explores materials from around Cambodia, such as bamboo, rattan, burlap from rice bags, beeswax and earth pigments. He shapes these into sculptures inspired by human anatomy, plant life and abstract geometric structures. According to a video created for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pich selects and harvests bamboo every six months, which is then dried at his studio in Phnom Penh. The bamboo is split, shaved and boiled in diesel oil to take out the water, sugar and any insects. These are then dried again to become the fine threads that Pich uses to weave his sculptures.

Installation of Sopheap Pich, "Elemental" 1 December to 29 January 2017 at H Gallery. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Installation of Sopheap Pich, “Elemental” 1 December to 29 January 2017 at H Gallery. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Pich discovered bamboo and rattan when he returned to Cambodia. The breakthrough enabled him to experiment and explore different ways of making, and he compared his creative process to the child-like process of making toys out of found materials. In an interview with The Culture Trip, Pich describes his initial exploration of sculpture:

Making a three-dimensional object is different for me in that I am making something real as opposed to making a kind of illusion on a flat surface. Also, starting with my first sculpture, it was the physical aspect of the activity that had its own urgency and movement – something that painting did not give me.

Sopheap Pich, 'Memory', 2016, bamboo, rattan, wire, burlap, plastics, beeswax, damar crystal, 171x150x11cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Sopheap Pich, ‘Memory’, 2016, bamboo, rattan, wire, burlap, plastics, beeswax, damar crystal, 171x150x11cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

The themes in Pich’s work delve into the significance of objects and how people interact with them, as well as the experience of the passage of time. During his creative process,  he became aware of time as slowly unfolding, something he recreates for viewers of his work. His work engages with an awareness of time being bigger than ourselves and that the passage of time is beyond the specific point in history or personal relationships.

Installation of Sopheap Pich, "Elemental" 1 December to 29 January 2017 at H Gallery. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Installation of Sopheap Pich, “Elemental” 1 December to 29 January 2017 at H Gallery. Image courtesy H Gallery.

The piece Stalk, Version 2 (2009) investigates concepts such as growth and renewal, using circular structures reaching up to a thin stalk. It holds two forces often present in Pich’s work, the light form in contrast with the tight grid pattern that creates the form of cage. As observed in an exhibition review of “Cambodian Rattan: The Sculptures of Sopheap Pich” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013,

Air can move through the structure, but the piece itself resembles a trap, like the fish traps from which Pich has drawn inspiration in his work. There’s a sense of confinement and constraint. The stalk is budding, but progress is tough.

Sopheap Pich, 'Monument 3', 2016, rattan, copper wire, Pusat yellow sandstone, wood, India ink, 183x39x98-cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Sopheap Pich, ‘Monument 3’, 2016, rattan, copper wire, Pusat yellow sandstone, wood, India ink, 183x39x98-cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Sopheap Pich, 'Void', 2016, bamboo, rattan, wire, burlap, plastics, oil paint, beeswax, damar crystal, charcoal, 201x250x9cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Sopheap Pich, ‘Void’, 2016, bamboo, rattan, wire, burlap, plastics, oil paint, beeswax, damar crystal, charcoal, 201x250x9cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Pich incorporates aspects of his environment in his work, first in the material he chooses and secondly in the subject matter. Morning Glory (2011) for example is a work that celebrates a common local food, which also refers to the food of last resort when millions in Cambodia were starving. In Junk Nutrients (2009) Pich delves into the challenges surrounding foreign investment in Cambodia, which is devastating the natural resources and forcibly evicting residents.

Sopheap Pich, 'The clearings 1', 2016, bamboo, rattan, burlap, plastics, wire, beeswax, damar resin, charcoal, 151x172x11.5cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

Sopheap Pich, ‘The clearings 1’, 2016, bamboo, rattan, burlap, plastics, wire, beeswax, damar resin, charcoal, 151x172x11.5cm. Image courtesy H Gallery.

As described in the curatorial statement,

Found materials, painted and stitched surfaces and organic forms have previously shaped poignant sensibilities and hinted at dark histories…Now Pich heightens a more abstracted quality which is rooted in an all-encompassing view of our environment; from the fundamental aspects of the built environment, such as the humble brick, to suggestions of growth and both the haptic and visceral experience of the natural world.

Pich’s creative practice allows him to become intimate with his environment, and the insights this gives him provide a unique perspective of the materiality of the world around us.

Claire Wilson

1499

Related topics: Cambodian artists, Sopheap Pich, sculpture, gallery shows, feature, events in Bangkok

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