Cambodian Living Arts

cla_seyha_paintingCambodian Living Arts (CLA) is a Cambodia-based non-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate the transformation of Cambodia through the arts. They do this by building the capacity of artists and the arts community, by promoting awareness of the arts, and by advocating for the arts with cultural policymakers and major institutions.

“You are seeing artists responding to socio-political implications with a great deal of urgency,” said Kate O’Hara, manager of Romeet Gallery in Phnom Penh, who has seen increasing numbers of international collectors enter the country.

“The energy and motivation of these artists combine the traditional Cambodian visual linage with new aesthetics to reflect on contemporary issues that are local, but have global resonance.”

One such artist is Hour Seyha whose recent series Waiting for Sunrise explored his experience of child labor. In his early teens he worked in Thailand, at times illegally, to support his impoverished family. He returned to Cambodia alone at 15. Hour, who is now in his early 20s, lived in an orphanage before eventually starting art classes at Battambang-based charity Phare Ponleu Selpak. The organization, which began in 1986 in a refugee camp, has helped develop a generation of raw talent.

Hour’s highly emotive paintings—in muted yellows, reds and blues—are full of symbols of his time abroad. Footprints represent wounds; flip-flops illustrate slavery; red is a symbol of fear. “I want to explain and make people understand about the issues in society,” he said at a recent public talk.


Fellow Phare Ponleu Selpak alumni Nov Cheanick, whose work is currently on display at the Four Rising Talents from South-East Asia exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong, is also exploring the nature of modern society, using images of US President Barack Obama in his Freedom series.

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