Four Ways In is a solo exhibition by Suos Sodavy featuring paintings that represent four distinct subjects within the artist’s oeuvre. Complimenting this range of works that span over one decade are sketchbooks, exhibition ephemera and objects of material culture from the artist’s personal collection.
The selection of paintings in the cluster Landscapes of Abstraction serve to anchor Suos Sodavy’s practice in a historical language of painterly abstraction, a resonant influence from his decade studying in Budapest, Hungary, from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. From oil and acrylic on canvas paintings to found-material collages, Sodavy foregrounds inherent character of materials and techniques in relation to his subjects. While titles such as Yellow and In Blue (both 2005) draw us into the experience of color itself, Talking (2009) demonstrates the potential for two-dimensional abstraction to evoke movement and sound.
Memories of War and Loss commemorate the shared experience of wartime in Cambodia. Works such as Loss of a Mother and Fish Pier (both 2008) draw on specific memories throughout the artist’s years of survival. Approaching personal and collective struggles, Sodavy is instinctively minimalist, using monochromatic and somber hues of black and reds. His ethereal treatments of the figure –dark outlines or fading silhouettes – seem both fixed and ghostly at once. Depicting traumatic pasts has been an important practice for the artist to memorialize, and to move forward.
Suos Sodavy often commits his paintbrush to his keen observations of everyday urban life in Phnom Penh. The series Market Scenes (2010) is inspired by mobile street vendors, which constitute what the artist refers to as “walking markets” across Cambodia’s urban landscapes. The acrylic and tempera paintings on canvas depict figures and their wares-for-sale amidst a nondescript, subtly illuminated background. The softness of these paintings can feel nostalgic – walking markets are a timeless tradition – yet these portraits are based on specific vendors – commonly women and children – working in Phnom Penh today. While the paintings acknowledge the strength and patience of the vendors, their titles remind us of anonymous labor, and a challenging life defined by what and where they sell.
Dancers (2010) reveal yet another recurring subject in Suos Sodavy’s practice: a way to look into the spirit and essence of poses in Cambodian traditional dance. True to his painting philosophy, Sodavy’s subjects are not static; we see no elaborate clothing, jewelry, makeup, or exacting postures. Instead, the artist highlights their movement, like a camera whose lens is open for a long exposure, or like our eyes trying to follow one dancer among many.
By bringing together a wide range of works by Suos Sodavy into one exhibition, Four Ways In invites us to see, feel, and begin to understand how the artist embodies painterly abstraction’s boldness of color, dynamic brushwork, and reverence for his subject, and how this sheds light on Cambodian arts, history, and ways of life.
About the artist
Suos Sodavy (b. 1955, Cambodia) is a highly regarded senior artist in Cambodia with a firm place in its art history as an active figure from the post-war years of the 1980s through today.
After surviving the Khmer Rouge era (1975-1979), Sodavy lived in an orphanage and taught dance, drawing and puppet theatre (1979-1983), then worked as a designer at the Technical University in Cambodia (1983-1984). As part of an initiative to rebuild arts and education in Cambodia following the death of an estimated 90% of its artists and masters during the Khmer Rouge era (1975-1979), select students were nominated for advanced education in then-Soviet Eastern bloc countries. Suos Sodavy was sent to Hungary, where he lived for over a decade. He graduated from the International Language School in 1986, the Teacher Training College of Nyfreghàza in 1989, and he earned a Masters of Fine Arts from the Department of Painting, Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest, in 1994. For the past 25 years he has been a Professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts, and has held numerous roles in the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, including Deputy Director, Department of Arts and Handicrafts.
Suos Sodavy has exhibited extensively around the world, including in Hungary, Vietnam, Singapore, France, United States and China. Sodavy has been honored with numerous awards, most recently “Venerable Artist of the Year 2016” by Mahasarakham University in Thailand.
Art Gallery, Level 35 Rosewood Phnom Penh
From March 31 to June 30, 2019