statement

Salvaged from the past, before I had known evil, there was basic ignorance of what was to happen. I played and laughed. My childhood, though brief, was joyful, and the whole village was my family. Now, as an adult, I should know how and want to live, but I don't, for there's evil, sadness, a sense of absence and loss, forgetting, and the constant erasing of memories. Goodness is replaced by greed, based on money and power. The Cambodia I had once knew is gone. All the former regimes took it away. They murdered the goodness, the kindness, the generosity, and the compassion of present Cambodians. Lurking from within each person a kind of competition, this sense of jealousy and envy, this culture of violence, preying on each other's weakness, this goddammit nice Khmer hidding smile is fake and I can feel everyday on the road and in the market, in the songs they sing and in the temples they build all based on heartless money. The community, the village is gone. Now, a new regime based on fear, violence and threat, intimidation that money can create, and the hatred that makes pre-Khmer Rouge conditions completely civilized and human. Everybody else is here to cash in on the Cambodian miseries.

about the artist

Piersath Chath

Piersath Chath

Chath Piersath was born in Banteay Meanchey province, Cambodia, in 1970. He is a poet and contemporary artist. Chath’s early work described his personal search to connect with the suffering of others in order to understand his own and to reconnect with the people that he lost as a child of war. Similarly, in his work with orphans and people affected by HIV and AIDS, Chath utilized art as a vehicle to help others and find a path for himself toward healing. His early work consisted of small portraits, portrays intimate characters from his own life, often with large eyes, tattered hope, broken by poverty and suffering. These simple portraits comprise a spontaneous diary, almost a stream of consciousness, reflecting his own naïve, obsessive and immediate need to tell his story in painting and drawing. His later works consist of collage, mixed media, using glue and found materials, wood blocks, newspapers, magazines, cardboard boxes and tiles. For these works he cuts and tears images, combining them with paint, building up layered images that reflect his present search for meaning and purpose in the very unsettled social, economic and political environment of Cambodia, where he lives and works six months of the year. During the other six months, he lives and works on a farm in the United States, his adopted country, where he began his life as an artist piecing together memories and narratives. ‘Wallpaper’, a large scale mixed media collage installation, brings together a vast array of faces and narratives. Equally, in his painted series, 'Mental Blocks', he uses a number of individual cubes, each one usually depicting a singular painted face, to form a larger, more robust cubist form. In both works, Chath highlights the social injustice he sees while empowering people by bringing them together. He refers to this conscious act as being the antidote for how he sees people interacting today, where many are only concerned with ‘the hair on their own head’.

In ‘Stolen Narratives’, a series exhibited in 2010, he presents painted and collaged portraits made from photographs and other details he collected from the mass media.  His layering and re-assembling of mismatched facial features found in magazines or newspapers, purposely removes them from their initial context as saleable commodities and inserts them into the realm of abstraction. Awkward and anguished looking, these are not glorified depictions of beauty. With over-sized eyes, which beg for attention, they represent the unheard and disenfranchised in Cambodia.

At times, Chath fuses images of people, buildings and text ripped from magazines with painting to the extent that they are almost indistinguishable. This is an apt metaphor for Phnom Penh where the rate of change is so fast that people, rather than being considered as active individuals, have been subsumed by the changes. Together, these images comprise an attempt at articulating his evolving relationship with his homeland.


Chath’s art works have been shown at the Rhode Island Foundation Gallery (2003), the Whistler’s Museum of Lowell MA (2003), the Queen’s Gallery in Bangkok (2004), and in Kunming, China (2007).