You Khin, 66, veteran professional painter will display his works amongst those of other artists at the French Cultural Centre (FCC) in Phnom Penh. The exhibition will raise the profile of women’s issues and rights. Khin was born in 1947 in Kampong Cham Province and he now has three sons and one daughter.
“I loved to draw pictures when I was a child. I never gave up, until now I have reached the point where my works are on display at the FCC. This is my first exhibition since my return to Cambodia in 2004,” he said during an interview with The Southeast Asia Weekly.
He said his uncle who painted Buddhist scenes for temples was the first to inspire him. He later went to the National School of Fine Arts, moving on to study at the University of Fine Arts, where he graduated with a degree in Interior Architecture in 1973.
In 1974, he was awarded a French scholarship on merit, enabling him to continue his study in Paris. Architectural work in Sudan and the Ivory Coast followed. He ended his career in Qatar before enjoying semi-retirement in London.
You Khin said that parallel to his work as an architect, he painted continually, shaping his own technique and expression. His experience of culture shock in Sudan helped create this unique style.
“I have painted scenes of people mixed with birds as symbol for freedom. Where you see a bird in one of my pictures, that represents me,” he said.
In 1981, when Khin moved to Qatar in the Middle East, freedom was his chosen theme once again. Locks and chains have replaced the birds. In 1999, during his time in London, he started to use strings applied to the canvas as a symbol of bonding and togetherness, inspired by the Sanskrit word “Sutra”. His paintings focus on people of all races, especially women, their conditions and aspirations.
“After I returned to Cambodia in 2004, I started to design sculptures and then returned to painting,” he said. “After more than 30 years of international experience, June 12, 2009 marks the date of my first Cambodian exhibition.”
Khin emphasized that the 30 years have shaped his inspiration; his works have become darker and conceptual; women of different cultures and different continents have been a central theme; this is expressed through surrealism and conceptual use of colours, with strong brush strokes pregnant with expression and meaning, sometimes reminiscent of Van Gogh’s.
“To appreciate my art,” he said, “you have to look deeply at the work and interrogate it. The answers you receive may well come to you in the silence of contemplation, but you will receive an answer from your heart, generated by the stimulus provided by the eye.”
With his work, the veteran painter will try to describe his dream of a better world, a world without oppression where people come together regardless of their cultures or backgrounds.
To promote traditional Cambodian culture and arts, as well as women’s rights, You Khin said that he would continue painting until the end. He also said he was willing to share his knowledge freely to those who wish to learn from him. He added that he has created over 300 portraits so far, most of them depicting women’s activities over the world.
Alain Arnudet, FCC Director, said that You Khin has a lot of experience in painting pictures and he is willing to share this with the younger generation. He added that Khin has also opened an art school with the help of his wife.
Alain said that FCC invited You Khin to the exhibition because his pictures focussed on his relationship with the women of the world and attempted to capture their feelings, doubts and desires.
“I am so proud of You Khin’s works and his experience. His knowledge should be of supreme interest to students at the Royal University of Fine Art in Cambodia,” Alain told The Southeast Asia Weekly.
The Director said that he had been seduced by the amazing quality of Khin’s works, as well as the artist’s kindness and humanity. He thought that Khin could be a good reference for young Cambodian painters in the future. He said that the combination of lessons learned at the “L’Ecole de Paris” had received a leavening of Cubism and Arte Opera. The results, he said, were an interesting lesson in Art History. ///