Ping Vey is a coming of age story, told by Cambodia’s surrealist painter, Oeur Sokuntevy. It moves not in a linear direction but through the fluctuating emotional landscape of a young man. The scenes, thick with symbolism and references, reveal the dreams, fears and longing of the main character, represented as a pig-figure (a reference to the Cambodian zodiac). Through her intuitive style, the artist explores this psychological terrain—a shift that she says is not restricted by gender and can resonate with many stages in one’s life.

With this series Sokuntevy explores a new scale with large canvases, previously working on small intimate and highly-textured works on handmade paper. The flattened surface of the canvas emphasizes details of the elaborate scenes and the size draws the viewer into the surreal compositions.

In one painting the Pig is lying in an open field, dreaming. The pillow that he clings to transforms into a cobra which displays it’s venomous fangs and a human hand with sharp red-painted nails. In the Pig’s dream red and green footsteps lead in different directions illustrating the Pig’s uncertainty.

In another painting there are three figures around a table in a typical domestic setting. A woman drinks from a cup on a tree branch that grows from the grandmother’s head on the right side—implying that one generation ingests the history, the emotions and experiences of the previous generation. The Pig watches quietly in the background with a sense of hesitancy.

In each composition, like the entire series, we stumble upon the characters in a moment of tension. As viewers we are unsure of the dynamics and relationships between them and the situation we have found them in. This tension is further exaggerated by the grotesqueness of the figures depicted as part animal and part human a direct reference to the local zodiac and superstitious beliefs. It is typical for individuals to be assigned the characters of the animal associated with the year of their birth.

There is also a more subtle suggestion that we are more closely linked to our animal natures than perhaps we would like to admit. We can find throughout the centuries and in many civilizations connections between animals and humankind (the animal spirits of the Native Americans, mythical creatures in Greek mythology, and urban legends to mention a few). The animal character is often symbolic of aggression, sexuality and power—not so different from human adolescence. The artist would take that notion one step further though to say that this is an on-going struggle in one’s life, navigating between base desires and reactions and the social norm.

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about the artist

Sokuntevy Oeur

Sokuntevy Oeur

Sokuntevy Oeur (b. 1983) is a female painter from Cambodia who is boldly leading the charge of the country’s emerging women’s art movement. At the forefront of her practice is an impassioned personal search to determine where, as an independent woman and artist, she can identify herself within contemporary Cambodian society and the natural world. Sokuntevy studied painting at the Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang and moved to Phnom Penh in 2007. Sokuntevy has had much interest in her work as one of the few female contemporary artists currently showing from Cambodia. Solo exhibitions include Love, Death and Dreams at Utterly Art (Singapore), Love to Death at the French Cultural Centre, I Curl in Memory’s Belly at Java Gallery in 2010, and Star Signs at Hotel De La Paix in 2008 (Cambodia). Group exhibitions include Me Love you Long Time at Boston Center for the Arts, 2013 (USA), Sightlines at Noel-Baza Fine Art Gallery, 2010 (USA), Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale (Korea) in 2009, and The Art of Survival, Meta House Gallery, 2008 (Cambodia). Sokuntevy’s work is included in private and public art collections including the Singapore Embassy (Cambodia) and the Singapore Art Museum.