Transcript: Sopheap Pich | Jan 08, 2020

Logo: TVF International.

The name of the show appears in white letters against different colourful abstract backgrounds. It reads "Brilliant Ideas."

A song says I-D-E-A-S
IDEAS

(music plays)

A Female Narrator says SOPHEAP PICH IS
ONE OF CAMBODIA'S MOST
EXCITING AND INTERNATIONALLY
RECOGNIZED ARTISTS.
HIS SIGNATURE RATTAN AND
BAMBOO SCULPTURES ARE SHAPING
THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN
CONTEMPORARY ART WORLD.

A bald man says SOPHEAP'S SOMEONE WHO'S SO
CLEAR ABOUT, UH, HIS PROCESS,
AND HIS REASON FOR BEING AN
ARTIST.

A woman in her thirties says A LOT OF HIS WORKS ARE SO
INCREDIBLY TOUCHABLE BECAUSE OF
THEIR VOLUPTUOUS FORMS.

Fast clips show Sopheap working and some of his artistic productions.

A woman with short hair says I THINK THAT COMES BACK TO
THIS IDEA, THIS VERY
INTELLECTUALIZED EXERCISE OF
TRYING TO TAP INTO SOMETHING
THAT'S VERY NATURAL AND DEEPER
THAN US, AND THAT'S OUR
CONNECTION TO OUR MATERIAL,
CONNECTION TO THE EARTH, AND
CONNECTION TO THE THINGS THAT
MAKES US WHO WE ARE.

Sopheap is in his late forties, clean-shaven with black hair. He wears black-rimmed glasses and a blue T-shirt.

Sopheap says THERE MUST BE A WORLD THAT I
CAN LIVE IN.
THERE MUST BE A LITTLE PLACE FOR
ME.
THAT'S ALWAYS BEEN MY-- MY
ASPIRATION, TO FIND THAT LITTLE
WORLD.

(relaxing music plays)

The Narrator says SOPHEAP WAS BORN IN A SMALL
VILLAGE NEAR BATTAMBANG,
CAMBODIA IN 1971.
IT WAS HERE WHERE HE LEARNT THE
TRADITIONAL METALSMITH METHODS
PASSED ON BY HIS FATHER.
TECHNIQUES THAT ARE SO EMBEDDED
INTO HIS WORK TODAY.

A caption reads "Sopheap Pich."

Sopheap says MY FATHER ALWAYS TAUGHT ME IF
YOU'RE HUNGRY, YOU GOT TO GO AND
FIND FOOD, SO HE TEACH ME TO
MAKE MY OWN FISH HOOK.
PUT A WORM ON IT, AND I ACTUALLY
CAUGHT-- CAUGHT MY FIRST FISH
WITH IT, SO HE WAS PRETTY PROUD
OF ME.

The Narrator says SOPHEAP LATER ADAPTED HIS
FATHER'S TRADITIONAL CRAFTSMAN
SKILLS INTO MESMERIZING
OBJECTS.
IN 2002, HE SCULPTED
MOUNTAIN
SPRING,
A FORM THAT ALLUDES
TO A KHMER FISHING TRAP.

A huge conical structure sits in a big studio.

Sopheap says SO, THESE SHAPES ARE
REMINISCENT OF THINGS FROM,
MAYBE, MY CHILDHOOD.
LIKE, IF YOU GO AROUND THE
COUNTRYSIDE, YOU SEE PEOPLE
PUTTING A SORT OF HAYSTACK...
IT HAS THIS SHAPE, THIS KIND OF
MOUNTAIN SHAPE.
ALSO, PEOPLE ALSO MAKE FISH
TRAPS THAT ARE TALL.
THEY USUALLY HAVE OPENINGS HERE.
THEY PUT A BAIT INSIDE, AND
THEN FISH SWIM INTO IT, AND
THEN THEY CANNOT COME OUT.

The caption changes to "Russell Storer. Deputy Director, Curatorial and Collections Development, National Gallery Singapore." Russell is in his late forties, with a short beard and bald. He wears a pale blue shirt.

Russell says HE REALLY WANTED TO MAKE WORK
THAT REFLECTED HIS OWN
EXPERIENCE IN CAMBODIA, USING
LOCAL TECHNIQUES, WHICH HE
LEARNED FROM HIS FATHER AS A...
AS A BOY, SO MAKING FISH TRAPS,
WEAVING BASKETS.

The Narrator says ALTHOUGH SOPHEAP'S CHILDHOOD
WAS SPENT PLAYING WITH MARBLES
AND FISH TRAPS, HE GREW UP
DURING THE BRUTAL RULE OF THE
KHMER ROUGE, WHICH CLAIMED THE
LIVES OF NEARLY TWO MILLION
PEOPLE.

Fast clips show a truck carrying soldiers and a wounded man on a stretcher.

Sopheap says MY FATHER HAD NO
HOPE THAT THE COUNTRY'S GONNA
GET ANY BETTER.
THE ONLY WAY TO GET A BETTER
LIFE, IN HIS MIND, WAS TO GET US
TO A PLACE WHERE WE CAN HAVE,
YOU KNOW, PROPER EDUCATION.
SO HE WAS WILLING TO RISK
EVERYTHING FOR THAT.

The Narrator says HIS MOTHER CARRIED HIS
YOUNGER BROTHER ON HER BACK,
AND HIS FATHER HELD HIS HAND AS
THEY CROSSED THE BORDER TO
THAILAND.
THESE MEMORIES LATER FOUND
THEIR WAYS INTO HIS
INSTALLATION TITLED
1979.

Russell says IT WAS ALMOST THIS
POST-APOCALYPTIC KIND OF
LANDSCAPE, SO THERE WERE THINGS
THAT WERE LEFT BEHIND, LIKE
BINOCULARS.
THERE WAS BOMB CASINGS.
THE BUFFALOES THAT WERE IN THE
FIELD.
SO, ALL OF THESE WERE KIND OF
SCATTERED AROUND THE ROOM.

The caption changes to "Dana Langlois. Founding Director Java Arts." Dana is in her late thirties, with short curly brown hair. She wears a purple shirt and long earrings.

Dana says FOR HIM AS A CHILD, THEY WERE
VERY STRANGE.
AND SO, IN THE INSTALLATION, HE
PRODUCED THEM AT SUCH A LARGE,
EXAGGERATED SCALE AS WOULD A
CHILD SEE THEM.

The Narrator says AT THE END OF THE
INSTALLATION WAS HIS FIRST
BUDDHA PIECE THAT WAS INSPIRED
BY A TEMPLE.

Sopheap says WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THE
TEMPLE IS THAT ALL INSIDE THE
WALL, THERE WAS, LIKE, RED
SPOTS EVERYWHERE.
I FIGURED THAT MAYBE PEOPLE WAS
KILLED IN THE TEMPLE, AND THERE
WAS BLOOD.
SO TO SYMBOLIZE THAT, I MAKE
MY FIRST BUDDHA.

The caption changes to "Siuli Tan. Curator, Singapore Art Museum." Siuli is in her mid-thirties, with shoulder-length black hair. She wears a silk patterned blue blouse.

Suili says IT'S A REALLY
BEAUTIFUL MINIMALIST BUDDHA, BUT
SOPHEAP HAS LEFT THE STRANDS
DANGLING TOWARDS THE BOTTOM, AND
THE ENDS OF THE RATTAN ARE
ACTUALLY TIPPED IN RED TO
SUGGEST BLOOD.

The Narrator says LEAVING THE VIOLENCE BEHIND
HIM, SOPHEAP ARRIVED AT
KHAO DANG, A REFUGEE CAMP
IN THAILAND.
IT WAS HERE, AROUND TWELVE
YEARS OLD, WHERE HE HAD HIS
FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH ART.
HE WAS MESMERIZED BY A
WATERCOLOUR PAINTING OF A
TYPICAL CAMBODIAN LANDSCAPE
DRAWN BY A CHILD.

Sopheap says YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU SEE
SOMETHING THAT BEAUTIFUL FOR THE
FIRST TIME IN YOUR LIFE, IT JUST
HAVE A-- AN IMPRINT ON YOUR
MEMORY.

The Narrator says SOPHEAP IMMIGRATED TO THE US
IN 1984.
THE WORLD OF ART QUICKLY FADED
OUT OF SOPHEAP'S LIFE WHEN HIS
FATHER DECIDED THAT MEDICINE
WOULD BE HIS CALLING.

A series of pictures of Sopheap's teen years flash by.

Sopheap says BEING THE ELDEST SON, MY
FATHER EXPECTED A LOT OUT OF ME.
HE JUST FIGURE, YOU KNOW, "MY
SON IS GONNA PAY ME BACK IN
SOME MANNER OR OTHER," AND THAT
WAS NOT BE AN ARTIST.

The Narrator says BUT, SOPHEAP'S MEDICAL CAREER
WAS SHORT-LIVED.
IN 1991, HE ENROLLED IN
PAINTING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
MASSACHUSETTS, BREAKING
TRADITIONS TO FOLLOW HIS
DREAMS.

Sopheap says BEING SORT OF AN OUTSIDER,
DIDN'T HAVE MANY FRIENDS, DIDN'T
KNOW HOW TO MAKE MANY FRIENDS.
ART WAS A KIND OF AN ESCAPE FROM
THE REAL WORLD, AND I KNEW THAT
THAT'S WHAT I WAS GONNA DO, NO
MATTER WHAT.

The Narrator says SOPHEAP'S EARLY PAINTINGS
EXPRESSED HIS MEMORIES OF HIS
COUNTRY AND THE POLITICS OF
THAT TIME.
HE PAINTED PORTRAITS OF THE
PRISONERS AT TUOL SLENG PRISON
THE VICTIMS OF THE KHMER
ROUGE REGIME.

Sopheap says I DREW IT WITH JUST A BAMBOO
PEN, AND A BRUSH AND INDIA INK.

The Narrator says LEAVING BEHIND A COUNTRY
SUFFERING FROM VIOLENCE AND
INJUSTICE WAS SOMETHING THAT
DEEPLY AFFECTED HIM.

Sopheap says IT WAS MOST-- JUST TRYING TO
PULL SOMETHING OUT OF MYSELF SO
THAT YOU-- I DIDN'T HAVE TO DEAL
WITH IT, YOU KNOW, IN THE LONG
RUN.
SUBSEQUENTLY, I MOVE OUT OF THAT
PERSONAL STAGE AND, UH, I BECAME
SOMEBODY ELSE.

Sopheap cuts the trunk of a plant using a small tool.

The Narrator says AND SO, IN 2004, SOPHEAP
LOOKED FOR INSPIRATION
ELSEWHERE - HIS MEDICAL SCHOOL
LESSONS.
WITH AN AXE, A BUTCHER'S KNIFE
AND HIS OLD TEXTBOOKS, HE
EMBARKED ON HIS FIRST-EVER
SCULPTURE - A PAIR OF LUNGS.

Sopheap says I JUST LOOK AT THE MEDICAL
BOOK AND STARTED MAKING DRAWINGS
BASED ON THESE INSIDE FORMS.
YOU KNOW, THE STOMACH, THE
LIVER, THE LUNGS.
I JUST STARTED MAKING A FRAME
OF A PAIR OF LUNGS BECAUSE I
WAS SMOKING A LOT.

Siuli says THE DIRECTOR OF THE FRENCH
CULTURAL CENTER AT THAT TIME
TOLD SOPHEAP THAT THE WORK HAS
A BEAUTIFUL AUSTERITY.
IT'S VERY MODERN IN ITS FORM,
AND IT WAS WHEN THE ARTIST TOOK
THIS ADVICE THAT HIS SIGNATURE
STYLE WAS BORN.

The Narrator says HIS EXPERIMENTS WITH A PIECE
OF RATTAN AND A KNIFE
ACCIDENTLY LED TO THE START OF
HIS INTERNATIONAL ART CAREER.

Sopheap says MY VERY FIRST SCULPTURE,
SILENCE,
AND THEN MY SECOND
SCULPTURE, WHICH IS
CYCLE,
THOSE
TWO WORK DEFINES WHO I AM AS A
PERSON.
THEY HAVE DICTATED THE WAY I
WORK EVER SINCE I MADE THEM.
SINCE I WAS A CHILD, IT WAS
ALWAYS THE HUNGER, IT WAS ALWAYS
THE DEMON, YOU KNOW, THE BEAST.
THEY SUGGEST A CIRCULAR KIND OF
MOTION AND I STARTED THINKING
ABOUT, YOU KNOW, UM, FAMILY
CONNECTIONS AND THE CYCLE OF
HUNGER, TO BE-- TO SOUND A BIT
CLICHÉ-ISH.
UM...
YEAH, A LOT OF MY WORK HAS TO DO
WITH DUALITY.
THERE'S ALWAYS A KIND OF TWO
THING CONNECTING TO-- TO EACH
OTHER.

Russell says SOPHEAP'S EARLY SCULPTURES
WERE REPRESENTATIONS OF INTERNAL
ORGANS, SO THERE WERE CLEARLY
INFLUENCED BY HIS PRE-MED
STUDIES IN THE US, BUT ALSO, I
THINK, A WAY OF THINKING ABOUT
HUMAN EXPERIENCE, HUMAN
CONNECTION, THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN INSIDE AND OUTSIDE.

The Narrator says SOPHEAP'S EXPERIMENTAL
METHODS AND THE ABILITY TO MAKE
THESE SUBTLE CONNECTIONS IS
WHAT MAKES HIS ART SO UNIQUE.
COMING UP NEXT: WE SHOW YOU
HOW HIS BAMBOO SCULPTURES GO
FROM TREE TO ART.
SOPHEAP PITCH IS MOST KNOWN
FOR HIS ORGANIC GEOMETRICAL
STRUCTURES.
HIS WORK EXPLORES CYCLES AND
CONNECTIONS, DRAWING FROM HIS
MEMORIES OF HIS CHILDHOOD
DURING THE KHMER ROUGE, HIS
SEARCH FOR BELONGING IN THE US,
AND EVEN HIS MEDICAL SCHOOL
BOOKS.
IN 2002, SOPHEAP RETURNED BACK
TO CAMBODIA - TO PHNOM PENH - A
CITY HE'D NEVER BEEN TO BEFORE.

Sopheap says I FELL IN LOVE WITH
IT.
MY SENSES WERE JUST-- JUST
EXPLODING.
I SMELL THE BUILDING, I SMELL
THE DIRT, I SMELL THE...
THE AIR, AND EVERYTHING ABOUT IT
WAS JUST DELICIOUS.

The Narrator says SINCE MOVING BACK TO
CAMBODIA, SOPHEAP'S ART BEGAN
TO REFLECT HIS HYBRID IDENTITY.
HIS 2008 SCULPTURE,
DUEL,
EXPLORES THE CONNECTIONS AND
COLLISION OF HIS TWO WORLDS.

Sopheap says THE IDEA OF DUALITY, THERE'S
SO MANY LAYERS TO IT, UH...
BEING SOMEONE THAT WAS BORN
HERE, AND THEN, YOU KNOW,
GOING SOMEWHERE ELSE, COMING
BACK, IT'S-- I GUESS YOU'RE
ALWAYS KIND OF WALKING IN TWO
DIFFERENT WORLDS.

The Narrator says IT WAS THIS SCULPTURE THAT
SET HIS PRINCIPLE OF
NON-WASTAGE - A PRACTICE THAT'S
INTRINSIC TO HIS ART-MAKING.
DUEL
WAS MADE BY USING THE
ENTIRE ENDS OF FOUR BAMBOO
TREES, NOT THROWING ANYTHING
AWAY BUT THE BRANCHES.

Sopheap says IT'S NOT POSSIBLE TO USE
EVERY SINGLE THING, BUT, UH, TO
USE THE MOST OF THE THINGS THAT
YOU'RE USING, I THINK IT'S VERY
IMPORTANT.

The Narrator says RATTAN AND BAMBOO GROW IN THE
TROPICS AND ARE ONE OF THE
FASTEST GROWING PLANTS IN THE
WORLD.
BUT FOR SOPHEAP, THEY WERE NOT
ONLY THE MOST ACCESSIBLE AND
CONVENIENT, BUT ALSO THE MOST
AFFORDABLE MATERIALS.

Sopheap says I WASN'T BORN WITH A LOT OF
MONEY, AND I DIDN'T START
MAKING, OUT OF IT, A LOT OF
MONEY, SO I HAVE TO CHOOSE THE
CHEAPER MATERIAL.
IT'S JUST SIMPLY OUT OF
NECESSITY THAT WE USE IT.
IT BECOMES AND IT LOOKS LIKE
CHOICE LATER ON BECAUSE WE'VE
GROWN TO ACCEPT IT AND LOVE IT.

Sopheap piles a bamboo trunk.

Dana says HE FIRST WORKED WITH RATTAN
AS A-- AS A SCULPTURAL MATERIAL,
AND FOR HIM, THAT WAS A MAJOR
TURNING POINT, WAS, I THINK,
FOR HIM, AN INTELLECTUAL LEAP,
AND HE KIND OF FOUND WHAT IT WAS
THAT WORKED FOR HIM AS AN
ARTIST.

Siuli says WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THESE
TRADITIONAL WICKER FURNITURE
THAT WE USED TO HAVE, I THINK
THOSE FAMILIAR SENSATIONS ARE
PROBABLY QUITE CONTEXTUAL FOR
SOUTHEAST ASIAN AUDIENCES.

Sopheap says I WAS RIDING MY BICYCLE
AROUND AND JUST PRETTY MUCH
ACROSS THE BLOCK FROM MY-- FROM
WHERE WE WERE LIVING, THERE WAS
A RATTAN SHOP, SO I FIGURE, "WHY
NOT JUST WALK IN THERE AND ASK
THEM TO BUY A FEW RATTAN TREES?"

The Narrator says WITH SOPHEAP'S NEWLY-BORN
TRADEMARK - HIS ETHOS OF
NON-WASTAGE - CAME A NEW ONE:
NO CUTTING CORNERS.

Sopheap says I THINK PART OF MAKING A-A
SCULPTURE IS TO MAKE EVERYTHING
YOURSELF.
IT'S NOT IMPORTANT THAT YOU GET
IT DONE FASTER.
IT'S NOT IMPORTANT THAT IT
SHOULD BE EASIER.

(speaking indistinctly)

The Narrator says FOR SOPHEAP, AN IMPORTANT
PART OF MAKING HIS SCULPTURE IS
TO CHOOSE WHICH BAMBOO OR
RATTAN TO USE.
HE TAKES US TO CHAMBOK MEAS,
WHERE HE SHOWS US HOW HE
PICKS HIS MATERIAL.

In the woods, Sopheap says LOOKING AT THE BAMBOO, YOU
CAN SEE, LIKE, WHAT IS THE
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS BAMBOO
AND THAT BAMBOO?
WHICH ONE DO WE PREFER?
AND MYSELF, PERSONALLY, I GET A
LITTLE INSPIRATION FROM THAT
FOR FUTURE WORKS.
LIKE, FOR EXAMPLE, AT ONE POINT,
WE WERE CUTTING BAMBOO AND I SAW
ALL THE SHELL-- ALL THE
PATTERNS, LIKE, YOU KNOW, ON
THE-- ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE
BAMBOO FOR THE FIRST TIME, YOU
KNOW?
BECAUSE I-I'M RIGHT THERE NEXT
TO IT.
IT FORCED ME TO LOOK AT IT.

The Narrator says FOR THIS KIND OF STRENUOUS
WORK, SOPHEAP RELIES ON THE
SUPPORT OF HIS TEAM.

Sopheap says IT'S LONELY TO WORK ALONE,
YEAH.
AND AS YOU GET OLDER, YOU DON'T
WANT TO BE LIFTING STUFF AND
CUTTING STUFF.
THE STUFF THAT YOU DON'T WANT TO
DO PHYSICALLY, UH, YOU HAVE
OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE MORE
CAPABLE OF DOING IT.
I MEAN, THEY HELP ME MORE THEN I
HELP THEM, FOR SURE.
AND SO, I'M VERY LUCKY THAT I
HAVE A SOLID TEAM.

The Narrator says SOPHEAP'S FIRST ASSISTANT,
TOMA, BEGAN WORKING WITH HIM
AT THE START OF HIS SCULPTING
CAREER IN 2004.

The caption changes to "Toma, Studio Head Assistant." Toma is in his mid-twenties, with a short moustache and black hair. He wears a cap and a beige shirt.

In a foreign language, Toma says IT'S REALLY SURPRISING
THAT THESE SIMPLE WORKS
WITH NO TRADITIONAL KHMER CARVINGS
ARE ATTRACTING SUCH GLOBAL ATTENTION.

Sopheap says WE'RE GONNA TAKE
THIS DOWN.

(grunting)

Toma and Sopheap pull down a trunk.

Sopheap chuckles and says THAT IS BEAUTIFUL.

Russell says HE IS INVOLVED IN EVERY
ASPECT OF THE MAKING OF THE
WORK.
HE'S A MAKER.
I MEAN, AS A SCULPTOR, HE'S VERY
INTERESTED IN EVERY ASPECT OF
THE MATERIAL.
YOU CAN REALLY SENSE THE DETAIL
AND THE HUMAN HAND IN EVERY
LITTLE ELEMENT OF HIS
SCULPTURES.

Sopheap says SO, EVEN WHEN I'M CUTTING, I
DON'T WANT TO MESS WITH-- I
DON'T WANT TO RUIN THIS, SO I'M
CAREFUL.
I DON'T WANT TO DAMAGE THE
BAMBOO.
AND THAT'S THE OTHER THING ABOUT
CUTTING YOUR OWN BAMBOO, IS YOU
CAN CHOOSE IF YOU WANT TO SAVE
THAT, SO YOU DON'T WANT TO
DAMAGE IT.
BUT IF YOU BUY BAMBOO FROM THE
DEPOT, WHEN THEY CUT THIS,
USUALLY THEY JUST GO LIKE THIS,
AND THEN THEY CUT THIS PART AS
WELL, SO.

The Narrator says AFTER THE BAMBOO IS CHOPPED
FROM THE TREE, THE STALK IS
CUT, THE JOINTS ARE LEVELLED,
THE PIECES ARE SPLIT, THE
STRANDS ARE SHAVED AND READY
TO BE WOVEN IN TO THE
SCULPTURE.

Siuli says RATTAN AND BAMBOO ARE
INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT TO WORK
WITH BECAUSE HE WOULD NEED TO
STRIP DOWN THE INDIVIDUAL
STRANDS AND REALLY MAKE THEM
PLIANT BEFORE HE SHAPES THEM.

The Narrator says AS SOPHEAP'S WORKED DEVELOPED
OVER TIME, HIS FORMS BECAME
MORE REFINED.

Russell says HIS MID-PERIOD INSTALLATIONS
WERE VERY ELABORATE AND, UM,
QUITE SPECTACULAR.
HIS TECHNIQUES WERE CLEARLY
IMPROVING AND HE WAS ABLE TO
WORK WITH THE MATERIALS.

The caption changes to "Raft, 2009."

A big raft-shaped sculpture appears.

The Narrator says SOPHEAP'S DETAILED AND
DELICATE WORK,
RAFT
AND
COMPOUND,
WERE INSPIRED BY THE
CONNECTIONS TO HIS ENVIRONMENTS
AND SHAPES AROUND HIM.
IN 2008, SOPHEAP AND MORE THAN
3,000 FAMILIES WERE EVICTED
FROM THEIR HOMES NEAR BOEUNG
KAK LAKE TO MAKE ROOM FOR A
DEVELOPMENT PROJECT.

Sopheap says EVEN IN THE YEAR 2000, THE
COUNTRYSIDE IS FULL OF THESE WAR
MATERIALS.
YOU STILL SEE SKELETONS OF TANKS
AND HELICOPTERS, AND THEY GO
THROUGH A FACTORY PROCESS,
RECYCLING, WHATEVER, AND THEY
COME BACK AS WIRES AND NAILS AND
REBAR.
SO, THAT WAS CONNECTION I MADE.
THE WAR MATERIAL BECOME THE
BUILDING MATERIAL.
BUT THEN THERE'S ALSO
SYMBOLICALLY, LIKE A CITY IS
BUILT, BUT THEN OLD BUILDINGS
GET DESTROYED.
THIS IS JUST KIND OF ISSUES THAT
WERE IN MY MIND.

Russell says IT WAS A REALLY
POWERFUL EVOCATION OF THIS SENSE
OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND
DISPLACEMENT.
BUT ALSO THE FACT THAT THE CITY
WAS REALLY JUST FLOATING ON VERY
UNSTABLE GROUND, AND THEN HE
DEVELOPED THAT FURTHER IN THE
COMPOUND
INSTALLATION, WHICH
WAS THIS PHENOMENAL CITYSCAPE
THAT FILLED A ROOM.
AND IT WAS MODULAR PIECE AS
WELL, SO THE DIFFERENT ELEMENTS
COULD BE RECONFIGURED IN
DIFFERENT WAYS.
SO, IT WAS CONSTANTLY KIND OF
EVOLVING DEPENDING ON
WHERE IT WAS BEING SHOWN.

(speaking indistinctly)

The Narrator says CONNECTING TO HIS COUNTRY,
CREATING FROM HIS LAND AND
WORKING WITH HIS HANDS GAVE
SOPHEAP THAT FREEDOM THAT HE
CRAVED.

Sopheap says I FEEL LIKE A BUTTERFLY.
I FEEL LIKE, UH, JUST-- I'M
FLUTTERING AROUND.
I-I WORK 12 HOURS A DAY, 13
HOURS A DAY.
I MEAN, I WAS HAPPIEST I HAVE
EVER BEEN.
AND, YOU KNOW, YOU SPEND, LIKE,
SIX WEEKS MAKING ONE SCULPTURE.
OBVIOUSLY, THAT'S... THAT'S A
BEAUTIFUL KIND OF FREEDOM.

The Narrator says IMMERSED IN HIS WORLD OF
BEAUTY AND FREEDOM, SOPHEAP'S
WORK CONTINUES TO DEVELOP.
COMING UP NEXT, WE TAKE A
LOOK AT HOW HE COOKS HIS OWN
PAINT, AND WE SHOW YOU
SOPHEAP'S NEW GROUND-BREAKING
PAINTINGS.
CAMBODIA'S SOPHEAP PICH BURST
ONTO THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
WITH HIS BAMBOO AND RATTAN
SCULPTURES.
HIS CHILD-LIKE IMAGINATION
AND HIS ADDICTION TO CRAFTING
IS WHAT MAKES HIS ART STANDOUT
AMONGST HIS PEERS.
JUST AS HIS TECHNIQUE OF
PROCESSING THE MATERIAL HAS
EVOLVED, SO HAS HIS ART.
KEEPING TO HIS PHILOSOPHY OF
NON-WASTAGE AND USING LOCALLY
SOURCED MATERIALS, IN 2010,
SOPHEAP STARTED MAKING HIS GRID
PAINTINGS.

Russell says IT WAS VERY INFLUENCED BY
ARTISTS SUCH AS BRANCUSI, FOR
EXAMPLE.
ALL THESE VERY SORT OF STARK
MODERNIST GRIDS.
BUT BY USING RATTAN, BY USING
HESSIAN, BURLAP, BAMBOO, HE'S
WORKING WITH MATERIALS THAT ARE
FOUND AROUND HIM.

Sopheap says I LIKE THE GRID; THAT IT'S
KIND OF ANYBODY'S TECHNIQUE, YOU
KNOW?
THE GRID KIND OF BELONGS TO
ANYBODY.
I DON'T TREAT MY PAINTING LIKE
A-- LIKE A PAINTING.
I TREAT MY PAINTING LIKE A
SCULPTURE.
LIKE, ALL MY SCULPTURE, YOU CAN
SEE EVERYTHING.

Sopheap paints a big square structure leaning against a wall.

He says TRANSPARENCY, LIKE THAT WAY OF
THINKING.
SEEMINGLY, FROM A DISTANCE, YOU
SEE THERE'S A SOLID SURFACE,
BUT IT'S NOT.
IT'S GOT A LOT OF HOLES IN IT.
IT'S-- YOU CAN PEER THROUGH TO
THE BACK AND STUFF LIKE THAT.

The Narrator says HE USES BURLAP FROM HIS LOCAL
MARKET TO PATCH OVER THE GRIDS.

Sopheap says I WANT THE STORY OF HOW IT'S
MADE TO BE PART OF THE WORK TOO.
IT'S MADE WITH THIS, IT'S MADE
THIS WAY.

Russell says HE'S COVERED THE
BURLAP WITH EARTH THAT HE'S
COLLECTED FROM AROUND THE
COUNTRY, SO IT'S VERY MUCH
GROUNDED, LITERALLY, IN THE
ENVIRONMENT AROUND HIM.
SO, THEY'RE A REALLY INTERESTING
PLAY ON THE SENSE OF A
MINIMALIST OR A GEOMETRIC
ABSTRACT PAINTING BEING KIND OF
NON-REPRESENTATIONAL INTO
SOMETHING THAT'S INCREDIBLY RICH
AND FILLED WITH INFORMATION
ABOUT CAMBODIAN LIFE, SOCIETY,
ENVIRONMENT.

Sopheap says I FIND THAT TO BE A VERY
INTERESTING THING TO USE.
IT'S THINGS THAT HAVE A KIND
OF...PERSONALITY, YOU KNOW.
LOOK AT THIS ONE HERE.
THIS IS PRETTY COOL.
WELL, LOOK AT IT.
IT'S GOT CHARACTER.
SOME MODERN ARTISTS CANNOT EVEN
MAKE WORK THIS INTERESTING, AND
THIS IS DONE WITH NO INTENTION
OF IT BEING INTERESTING.
YOU KNOW, WHAT PEOPLE THROW
AWAY, WHAT PEOPLE DON'T-- DON'T
CONSIDER IMPORTANT, WE THINK
IT'S IMPORTANT.

The Narrator says STICKING BY HIS PRINCIPLES OF
NO SHORTCUTS, SOPHEAP MAKES HIS
OWN CHARCOAL PAINT OUT OF
BEESWAX.
HE TRAVELLED TO THE RATANAKIRI
PROVINCE IN NORTHERN CAMBODIA
TO COLLECT THIS PURE, RAW
BEESWAX.

(soft music plays)

Sopheap says I LOVE THE SMELL.
IT'S THAT BEAUTIFUL, SWEET SMELL
OF HONEY, AND JUST THE COLOUR.
YOU JUST CAN'T BEAT IT.

The Narrator says THE BEESWAX IS BOILED AND THE
CHARCOAL IS THEN MIXED INTO THE
RECIPE.

Standing by a cooker, Sopheap says THIS IS THE SAME CHARCOAL
THAT WE COOK WITH.
IT'S WOOD CHARCOAL.
IT'S COMPLETELY NATURAL.
I LOVE THIS COLOUR.
I'VE NEVER MADE A BLACK OIL
PAINTING AND NEVER HAD ANY
INTENTION TO, BUT I CAN SAY I-I
LOVE THIS CHARCOAL AND WAX
MIXTURE.

Russell says HIS WORK IS VERY MUCH ABOUT
A SENSE OF PLAY, SENSE OF
DISCOVERY AND A SENSE OF MAKING.
HE'S A MAKER.

The Narrator says WITH THE MIXTURE THAT HE HAS
COOKED, SOPHEAP THEN APPLIES IT
ONTO THE CANVAS.

Sopheap says IT'S A VERY PHYSICAL
PROCESS.
IT'S NOT, UH, SOMETHING YOU DO
WITH A SMALL BRUSH.
IT DOESN'T FEEL LIKE PAINTING TO
ME.
IT FEELS LIKE HOUSE PAINTING.
WHEN IT COMES TO MY OWN WORK,
EVERYTHING IS A KIND OF
SURPRISE.
IF I THINK I'VE GOTTEN SOMEWHERE
AND I THINK I'VE BEEN THERE
BEFORE, AND I HAVEN'T PROGRESSED
FURTHER THAN THAT, I KNOW THAT
WORK IS NOT DONE.

The Narrator says SOPHEAP CONTINUES TO SURPRISE
US WITH HIS MOST RECENT BAMBOO
STRIPS AND NATURAL PIGMENT
PAINTINGS.

Sopheap says YOU COULD-- YOU ASK
YOURSELF, "WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF
YOU STICK A PIECE OF BAMBOO ONTO
SOME PAINT AND YOU PUT ON A
PIECE OF PAPER?"
YOU SAY, "WELL, I DON'T KNOW."
SO, YOU DO IT AND YOU FIND OUT.

The Narrator says WITH HIS DEVOTED SET OF
TOOLS - HIS BAMBOO STICK, A
PIECE OF PAPER AND RED IRON
OXIDE - HE ADDS ONE NEW
INGREDIENT - MUSIC, AND LETS
HIS TRUSTED BAMBOO STICK DO THE
REST OF THE WORK.

Sopheap says IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE TO ME.
IT REFINED MY WAY OF THINKING.
I THINK MY WORK IS VERY
INTUITIVE, UNPLANNED.
IT DEMANDS, UH, PATIENCE.
YOU HAVE TO ENJOY WORKING THIS
WAY TO MAKE THIS KIND OF WORK.
IT'S SORT OF MEDITATIVE AND
SLOW.
LOOKING CLOSELY AND TRYING TO
GET-- KINDA GO IN A LITTLE
DEEPER INWARD.

Siuli says PAINTING, I BELIEVE, IS
SOMETHING THAT CARRIES AN
ELEMENT OF NOSTALGIA FOR HIM,
COMING BACK TO THOSE DAYS WHEN
HE WAS STILL STRUGGLING TO FIND
HIS VOICE AS AN ARTIST.
AND I THINK MAYBE, IT'S THAT
TIME IN HIS CAREER WHEN HE WANTS
TO REVISIT AN EARLIER CHAPTER
AND SEE HOW DIFFERENTLY HE MIGHT
DO THAT TODAY.

(electronic music plays)

The Narrator says SOPHEAP'S WORKS ARE FULL OF
INTRICATE DETAILS, SUBTLE
CONNECTIONS AND ARE CIRCULAR IN
NATURE.
FROM HIS EARLY PAINTINGS AND
SIMPLE FORMS, TO HIS COMPLEX
GEOMETRIC SHAPES AND ABSTRACT
PAINTINGS, THEY ALL CONNECT
TO HIS MOST RECENT SCULPTURE -
A SIMPLE FLOWER.

Sopheap says A KID WILL NOT GO TO MY GRID
AND SAY, "WOW, WHAT IS THAT,
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?"
A KID WILL COME TO THE FLOWER
AND SAY, "WHAT IS THAT FLOWER?"
MAYBE IT DOESN'T HAVE ANY
MEANING, OTHER THAN THAT, AND
MAYBE THAT'S OKAY.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO MAKE A FLOWER
THAT MAKES SENSE.

The Narrator says THE CYCLES IN SOPHEAP'S WORK
ARE REFLECTED IN HIS LIFE.
IT TOOK HIS FATHER - THE MAN
WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR
TEACHING HIM HOW TO WORK WITH
HIS HANDS - 30 YEARS TO RETURN
TO CAMBODIA.

Sopheap says HE SAYS, UM, "SO, SON, YOU'RE
JUST MAKING BASKETS."
He chuckles and continues "PEOPLE ARE PAYING MONEY FOR
THIS?" YOU KNOW?
(chuckling)
I SAID, "YEAH, I KNOW, IT'S
CRAZY."
"IT'S A REALLY CRAZY THING,"
YOU KNOW?

Russell says THERE'S BEEN AN
INCREDIBLE INTEREST IN SOPHEAP'S
WORK FROM AROUND THE WORLD, AND
I THINK THAT IT IS MADE IN A WAY
THAT MOVES ACROSS ARTISTIC
FORMS.
IT MOVES ACROSS ARTISTIC
LANGUAGES.

Siuli says HE'S BEEN EXTREMELY
SUCCESSFUL IN MARRYING A
VERNACULAR IDIOM, WHICH IS HIS
USE OF INDIGENOUS MATERIALS WITH
A VERY ACCESSIBLE, INTERNATIONAL
VISUAL ART LANGUAGE, AND I THINK
THIS REALLY IS WHY HE'S SO
SUCCESSFUL IN THE ART WORLD
TODAY.

Dana says IT COMES OUT OF THIS KIND OF
VERY DEEP, KIND OF, PART OF
YOURSELF WHERE IT RESONATES.
THERE'S A CERTAIN BEAUTY AND
AESTHETIC THAT YOU'RE DRAWN TO,
AND FOR EACH PERSON, THAT
BECOMES QUITE A DIFFERENT
EXPERIENCE.

Watch: Sopheap Pich