Jacqueline Chao. Sopheap Pich: Inspirations and Reflections
Phnom Penh-based artist Sopheap Pich (b. 1971) is recognized today as Cambodia’s most internationally prominent contemporary artist. He is known for working with local materials such as bamboo, rattan, burlap from rice bags, beeswax and earth pigments gathered from around Cambodia, and for creating sculptures inspired by bodily organs, vegetal forms and abstract geometric structures. Currently featured at the Crow Collection of Asian Art is his large-scale sculpture Rang Phnom Flower (2015). The sculpture, which depicts a cannonball tree (L. Couroupita guianensis; Kh. rang phnom), is his most ambitious single-form sculptural work to date. Measuring 27 feet (8.25 metres) in length, its complex construction is composed of hundreds of strands of rattan and bamboo. In Southeast Asia, the cannonball tree is revered for its physical resemblance to the sal tree (L. Shorea robusta), under which the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, was born. In fact, the cannonball tree originated in Central and South America and was introduced by Europeans to Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans then introduced it to Southeast Asia in their revitalization of Buddhism in that region. The oversized scale of Pich’s sculpture conveys the power of nature and serves as a material and philosophical mediation between representation and abstraction. In this interview, Jacqueline Chao, curator of Asian art at the Crow Collection, talks to Sopheap Pich about his inspirations, his working process and the role of art in today’s society.