A painting depicting a woman sitting nude, vulnerably poised among blossoming sunflowers is just one piece in a new exhibition entitled Nude, looking to shed light on the vulnerability and gender inequality still experienced by many Cambodian women.
The exhibition – launched on March 8, International Women’s Day, at Phnom Penh gallery The Bodleian – consists of six paintings by Cambodian artist and photographer Rena Chheang.
The exhibition’s provocative title alone would make many in socially conservative Cambodia uneasy. But Chheang urges visitors to look beyond the nude portraits and see the deeper meaning her work explores through the lives of Cambodian women.
“My paintings reflect the lives of our urban, city women in Cambodia. No matter the condition in which they are living, women have different ways of struggling towards success. They have individual paths to development and happiness.”
“My canvas aims to be visual poetry. I consider my work a storytelling tool. I hope it contributes to the social and political awareness of women in our society, who struggle against many social problems from domestic abuse, unequal rights and forced labour, as well as many other things,” the 28-year-old self-taught artist tells The Post.
Chheang’s Nude exhibition is inspired by the lives of women in Cambodia’s cities; the conditions of inhabitants and the different and highly individual paths to development and happiness experienced by each woman.
Her paintings consist of both a more traditional style and abstract contemporary styles. She says it is the latter style that suits her current mood more.