Chath PierSath is not a painter in the classical sense. He doesn’t use painting in order to represent a given subject, narrative, or concept. The very act of painting and drawing is in fact the central function of his work. The main focus of his production is not what the paintings are about, but solely his own obsessive search for images, with which he aims to reconstruct a past that was violently erased from his personal life. He paints erasure.

Chath Piersath was born in Banteay Meanchey province, Cambodia, in 1970 and came to the United States as a refugee in 1981. He received a Bachelor degree in 1993 from New College of California in International Service and Development and after a MA in Community Social Psychology. Chath began painting in year 2000 as a way of exorcising his memory of war and violence. He uses art to work with people who have been traumatized by war, social inequity and injustices and as his own personal expression. Since he returned to Cambodia for the first time in 1994 he has lived between his adopted home in the United States and in Cambodia, to volunteer as a social worker and work as an artist.

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).