After a quiet period of almost two years, Meas Sokhorn exhibits a new series of paintings. Working on a background of alarming-red, Meas depicts figures on motorbikes, in cars and walking along the roads of Phnom Penh. The figures are not grounded to any fixed perspective and seem to be detached from the background—creating a loose and chaotic composition. It gives the impression that one could shake the canvas and the characters would float around and settle in new positions. But the artistic narrative unfolds in the details.
In the corner of one canvas are the words in English “LANE OWNER,” while horns emerge from the faces of pedestrians, a steering wheel and policeman caps. In another, a Chivas logo covers the road that cars drive over. The passengers carry bottles of alcohol and firearms. While another painting refers to the political rallies of the Cambodian General election of 2013.
Although the literal representation is largely traffic and alcohol, a secondary and subversive theme of class conflict and exploitation of power pervades the body of work. When discussing these themes with Meas, he refers to the congested roads of Phnom Penh as a “moving slum.” A metaphor that refers to the seeming lack of order and infrastructure despite the fact that there are rules and laws in place to govern the interactions. He says that the whole system is broken and no one is taking responsibility.
When asked why, as an artist, do you present this theme in your work, Meas replied that he has observed and been subjected to this growing problem and felt compelled to respond, “This is all I can do—I have my brush.” The stop-sign red background of the paintings serve as a warning of danger. A warning that he hopes will stimulate conversation and hopefully serve as a call to action.
Although broadcast by local television channels, traffic issues (accidents, congestions, non-compliance with traffic lights, etc.), still trend against the order and the objective of the traffic system, especially in the collapsing Phnom Penh city.
Like a TV screen, those smooth streets are undergoing harsh abuse and a plague that causes the streets to fall ill unknowingly: burnt by disorganized parking lots, worn by violating speeds, holed by impact; broken by traditional ceremonies outside the site; bumped by the number of the police, diverted by endless repairs; traffic light intersections congested with beggars; darkened by modern cars, blurred by billboards of alcohol; cracked by overloaded trucks, etc.
Those streets can be compared to never-combed hair, curly and tangled, matted, smelly, dandruffy, prematurely hoary, falling and fragile on the same head; and countless remain, fall, and regrow all the same.
The total abuse of countless people is a series of crimes as if war was waged within the city without weapons, tanks without cannons (vehicles) that leave the rule followers with headaches, stuffiness, suffocation, and abused beyond the limit of fright and past mania unknowingly (completely fallen).
Is there any drug to cure and get rid of this illness?