Neak Sophal : Flower Power
With MAADS # LivingCambodia
10 July 2017
Cambodian visual artist Neak Sophal deepens her quest for women empowerment.
At only 28, Neak Sophal already boasts an impressive body of work, with a marked emphasis on Cambodian women’s social and symbolic status.
“When I completed my studies in graphic design at RUFA (Royal University of Fine Arts)”, she explains with her unassuming smile, “I started to explore the photographic medium for the practicability of it, the versatility, the fact that it allows me to easily tell stories. And I’ve always wanted to portray the paradox behind our fate as women: we are supposed to give birth, feed our family, work hard, and at the same time embody an ideal of female beauty.”
Her first solo exhibition,“Hang On”(Siem Reap, 2013), was a series of portraits where the human face, especially female, is clouded with material (fabric, grass blades…) expressing personal labor and preoccupations. In “Wild Spirit”, female spectral figures loom in the forest, ghosts from tormented past, both supernatural and intensely carnal. More recently, “Green Nettings” is a powerful collection of full-body portraits of female construction workers, “stitched” to their work site by protection netting.
And then, recently opened at Java Art Gallery in Phnom Penh, “Flower” gathers luscious close-ups of female faces partly covered with flower motives. On the photo print, Sophal uses watercolor, a liquid element on a hard, glassy support, “and you never know how the paint is going to dry up, in three hours or three days”, she remarks with a little laugh. Then, she scans each original composition in seven copies, to be purchased, and presents the model who posed for her with the hand-painted photo. To thank her and empower her.